Bruins fans get first taste of NHL’s new streaming reality Friday night

75756A5E-120A-4932-810C-2FD980DB785E

Podcast Episode
The Skate Podcast
The Skate Pod, Ep. 65: Breaking down the Bruins 2 games in, reacting to Jack Edwards on M&F
Listen Now
Now Playing
Now Playing

If you’re looking for Friday night’s Bruins-Sabres game (hey, you can watch the whole first period before Red Sox-Astros starts), don’t expect to find it on usual local broadcaster NESN. It’s not on new national channels ESPN or TNT either.

Nope, Friday night’s game is exclusively on streaming services ESPN+ and Hulu. You’ll need a subscription to one of the two to watch, or you’ll need to find a -- ahem -- less legal option.

For those who already have ESPN+ or Hulu -- or the bundle that includes both of those along with Disney+ -- this isn’t a problem.

For those who don’t, this is understandably frustrating. In addition to Friday night, the Bruins have three more games this season that are exclusively on ESPN+ and Hulu -- Nov. 26 (the Friday afternoon after Thanksgiving) against the Rangers, Jan. 20 against the Capitals, and April 19 against the Blues.

Four games out of 82 isn’t a ton in the grand scheme of things, but if you’re a die-hard fan, you don’t want to miss any games. And the Rangers, Capitals and Blues are fairly marquee matchups (and hey, even the Sabres are 3-0-0 so far).

So, why are the NHL and ESPN doing this? Shouldn’t the league and its new TV partner be trying to reach as many viewers as possible, not putting games behind a paywall?

It’s pretty simple: ESPN wants to drive up its streaming subscriptions. They made it a priority to have ways to do that when they negotiated their seven-year rights deal (which reportedly has them paying $400 million a year) with the NHL. The NHL knew that was going to be a part of any move that got them back on ESPN and back in front of that audience.