- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 19, 2011

NEW YORK | The NHL is staying on NBC and Versus for the next 10 years with a deal that commissioner Gary Bettman calls the most significant in league history.

In a joint announcement Tuesday, the NHL and the NBC Sports Group said the new deal will run through the 2020-21 season. The package is reportedly worth a total of $2 billion.

NBC will remain the exclusive network home for the NHL, and Versus is retaining the major cable rights.

The NHL had drawn interest from ESPN, Turner and Fox, but decided to stay where it has been for the six years since the end of the season-long lockout.

This deal easily would exceed the $120 million contract the NHL had with ESPN from 1999 to 2004.

Under the previous deal with NBC and Versus, overall NHL television ratings in the United States increased by 84 percent over the past four years, and this year’s Winter Classic between the Wshington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins on NBC was the most-watched regular season hockey game in the U.S. in 36 years.

Versus boasted its highest regular-season viewership this season, a 17 percent jump over last season.

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