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NHL launches partnership with Bell Mobility to deliver cellphone content

TORONTO - The NHL is coming to a cellphone near you.

Bell Mobility has reached an agreement with the league and the NHL Players' Association to be the exclusive carrier of NHL content. As of Tuesday, customers will be able to sign up for a service that allows them to access video highlights, up-to-date scores and summaries and other unique features on their phones.

It's the latest effort by the league to engage its fans.

"We know they're online, we know they're using mobile," said NHL chief operating officer John Collins. "This is another way to reach them."

The current launch is impressive. It will cost Bell customers $8 per month plus data charges.

In addition to being able to monitor games in progress, cellphone users will also be to see period-by-period highlights from matchups involving American teams (blackout laws prevent Canadian content from being shown live).

Everything else from radio play-by-play to league stats and standings to ringtones/wallpaper is also available to customers. The NHLPA plans to use the medium to give fans access to features that provide an insight into players' life away from the rink.

"It's a chance to expose the players to fans in a new way," said Mike Ouellet, the NHLPA's chief of business affairs. "We've got a great opportunity to capture new content.

"This is only the beginning."

The current product is only available in Canada, although Collins believes it will be expanded to the U.S., once the league's deal with Verizon comes due at the end of the year.

Bell Mobility was aggressive in developing a platform to deliver the NHL's content in part because it believes many customers have an "insatiable desire" for news, highlights and stats from the league.

"Canadians love their hockey," said Adel Bazerghi, a senior vice-president with Bell. "They can't seem to get enough of their hockey."

This latest venture will be a test of that.

All parties involved see the potential for a bright future with NHL mobile content, but much will depend on how warmly customers embrace it now.

"I think we've come out of the box with a gold standard product," said Collins. "We'll see how our fans react to it."


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