TV Answer Man, has DIRECTV started selling the NHL Center Ice package yet? Do you know what the price will be? — Marie, Pontiac, Michigan. 

Marie, for those not familiar with the plan, NHL Center Ice provides up to 40 out-of-market regular season NHL games a week to cable and satellite subscribers.

(This is different from the old NHL.TV package which used to stream out-of-market games to non-cable and satellite TV customers. NHL.TV was shut down last year when the league turned the streaming out-of-market rights to ESPN+ which will provide more than 1,000 games online during the 2022-23 season.)

With the NHL season not starting until October 11, you might think it’s a little early for DIRECTV, or any pay TV provider, to begin selling the NHL Center Ice plan. Right?

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DIRECTV is now selling the package of 2022-23 games for $69.99 which is $10 more than last year’s price.

Why the increase?

Well, it’s all about ESPN+.

Before the streaming service took over the NHL.TV rights, NHL Center Ice cost $160 for the entire season. But last year, most pay TV providers lowered the price to around $60 because ESPN+ was charging just $69.99 for an annual subscription (or $6.99 a month) to its entire streaming lineup. The cable and satellite ops needed NHL Center Ice’s pricing to be competitive with ESPN+ or hockey fans would opt for the streaming service to save money.

However, ESPN+ recently raised its annual monthly rate to $9.99 a month and its annual subscription to $99.99. That allows DIRECTV to raise its NHL Center Ice subscription fee by $10 and still be cheaper than ESPN+.

We don’t know yet if other pay TV providers will raise their rates, too, but it’s likely.

Note: NHL Network is included in the NHL Center Ice subscription.

Marie, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann