U.S. NHL TV Ramblings/Good Friday

Thought to have another hockey post during the 1st round, but this TV related. For those who read the blog during the Olympics remember I commented quite a bit then about TV coverage and the like.

News that NHL signed a new deal in the US. 10 years with Comcast/NBC worth $2 Billion. First thought, that is WAY too long of a deal. A decade at anytime is a fair chunk of time. With technology today it’s even moreso. 2001 I didn’t have HDTV. Facebook and Twitter hadn’t been created yet. Idea of being able to watch video on a cell phone was crazy. Even trying to watch video online was a chore.

Some articles saying it’s a big win in the first battle of ESPN vs Comcast. Guess they forgot the ‘right to match’ part. Then it’s not an even playing field. Which was a problem. Even if the NHL wanted to go to ESPN it was out of their hands. Not smart whoever let that in a TV contract. With the merger that has Comcast/NBC/Universal under one umbrella they were not going to let something get away that they could overpay for and keep. No matter what someone else offered they could match. So it’s a “win” on a technicality.

Being in Canada I did catch some of Versus’ coverage of the NHL at start of the season. For those overseas regular season games TSN just picked up the Versus feed. Quite bad. Not a channel that just got the NHL rights last year either. Years of doing it and still not good coverage? Insane. Those reading in Canada, Versus is what OLN [Outdoor Life Network] became in America. So NHL hockey along with fishing, yachting and bike racing. Not the most high profile sports.

Games aired on NBC are much better of course. Should be with the big guns they have on air and the production side. With the Comcast/NBC merger hopefully the Versus side will increase. Read they will change again to NBC Sports Network or something like that. They can’t get worse.

The ESPN side of things is where they suffer. Just watching Pardon the Interruption on Monday was proof of that. Entire first segment on the NBA playoffs. You’d think it was the only playoffs going on. 2nd segment they did talk one NHL story. Canucks’ Torres not getting suspended. Both agreed the NHL disciplinary is a joke. So the only NHL comment as of that time on the show was negative. Very end of the show as in the last few seconds they asked who was going to win that night`s game between Boston/Montreal. Since I recorded the show it got cut off because it was that late in the program.

The decade long deal really handcuffs the NHL. Since with a reasonable length of a contract ESPN could stay partly interested. A decade though kills that idea. No point at all for them to promote NHL on all it’s properties.

Some good news for US fans. All the Stanley Cup Finals games will be on NBC. I know, fact that is a selling point of the new deal is lame. Some Twitter comments about the deal.

Turnkey Intelligence VP & Group Dir Steve Seiferheld: “No surprise to me at all, Versus can’t be a sports network without at least one mainstream sport.”

CAP Sports Group Owner Curt Pires: “No surprise by the NBC Sports – NHL deal. Its an exciting time for sports rights. You have to keep what you own before you add anything new.

National Post’s Bruce Arthur: “Thank goodness the NHL’s going back to NBC. ESPN doesn’t even have a horse race they could cut away from overtime playoff hockey for.”

Yes, you might’ve forgotten about that. NBC scheduled playoff hockey on Sunday afternoon which ended up going to OT. Game cut into horse racing so they cut away from Sabres-Sens and pushed the game to Cable. Shows their priorites.

As for numbers, ESPN has over 100 Million subscribers. Versus ratings last year averaged 353,000 viewers. Drop in the bucket nationally speaking, even with that being 19% higher than last year. 353K is a number that would get a show on the CBC cancelled. From AdWeek some background on what happened years ago. NHL went to Versus because of an ESPN executive shooting his mouth off.

http://www.adweek.com/news/television/nbc-versus-freeze-out-espns-nhl-offer-130773?page=2

“Not only would it get hockey back on SportsCenter, but you know ESPN would go all out with their playoff coverage,” the exec said. “When you think about all the shoulder programming and feature packages they would have put together . . . it just feels like a lost opportunity.”

And in the past week a huge story has really changed things. The biggest US Poker websites getting seized by the US Government. Reason it’s big is right away Poker Advertising is gone. I mean GONE. Dropped from all major sports channels and most poker shows were created and run by those same poker companies. They can’t be aired either. That is a lot of inventory that has now disappeared without any warning.

“ESPN will remove poker advertising and programming after the U.S. indicted gambling websites that sponsor televised tournaments and froze their bank accounts”

Hmmm, who thinks ESPN needs something to fill that void? Lost opportunity in more ways than one. Poker story could be an entire separate post. Fascinating part is that Poker websites in Canada are deemed OK. No worries here. So there is talk already from some poker players coming up and living in Canada to make money. Those who made a living playing online poker, they do exist, now can’t make that money in the US. Sounds like the plot to a bad sitcom. ‘American poker player moves to Winnpeg and has to deal with the locals.’

In 10 years could NBC Sports Channel [or whatever they call it] rival ESPN? No. Will be bigger than OLN/VERSUS, faint praise.  Just compare the conglomerate. Off the top of my head there is ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPN.com, ESPN Radio, ESPN Magazine, ESPN podcasts and ABC. That’s a lot of places to get the word out on a sport. As pointed out just look at soccer. ESPN gets MLS and the amount of stories increase. TSN gets Toronto FC/Vancouver Whitecaps and I saw a SportsCentre Top 10 entirely on soccer. Coincidence? Hardly.

SportsCenter in the US more likely to have Top 10 Playoff Hockey Goals or Top 10 Playoff Basketball Shots? We know the answer. And casual fans watch ESPN. Lot of casual fans. I have an example of how coverage or lack of coverage of a certain team can affect things.

Got to work a few days ago after Canucks/Blackhawks ended. Guy wanted Vancouver to win. Canucks won that game, which we didn’t see since we work midnights and it was an earlier start.  He asked me “Are the Sedins Canadian?”…… yes a real question. The Sedins are twin brothers from Sweden. Informed him they weren’t from Canada. He is a Leafs fan however not a die hard who can name each player on the team or anything.  That was a good example of ‘casual sports fans’. If you don’t hear much about a team or sport you don’t pay attention to it.

I’m sure I heard all people in Vancovuer hit their head against a wall when they read the Sedins question. Power of the media for you.

After all of that some radio news.  Good Friday I will be live in studio doing a show.  Interview with Allison Crowe that will air next week as well, for those listeners who will be out of town for the Easter Weekend.  Those who are listening on Friday will get Hey Rosetta! ‘Seeds’ on Vinyl, in it’s entirety.  Just found out ‘Seeds’ is currently Number 1 on the CFRC album charts.  Was going to play 1 side of the album, with that news I will play the whole thing.  And it’s Good Friday.  Holiday for most people so you will enjoy something different.

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3 comments

  1. Adrian

    Made it home, unpacked, in time to settle in and catch your show tonight… only, it’s Thursday!

    Holidays are confusing. Ok, I shall return in 24 hours. This gives me time to absorb your full ramble 🙂

    As for the Sedins, I’d add – they are Canucks. And we are ALL Canucks!

    Happy Easter, Rob, to you and yours, all to everyone listening!

  2. Rob C

    Canucks on early holiday it seems. Wow. Saw the game, crowd was in panic mode. And even colour guy ‘it’s like men playing boys’.

  3. Adrian

    Canucks did the very same thing near the end of the regular season. A two-game home-away series with the Edmonton Oilers, and the Canucks lost 4-1 and 2-0. With Chicago being a much stronger team than the Oilers, the goal totals are higher in these playoff losses, but, it’s the same bizarre appearance that the team is completely disjointed. Now, they did recover from their Oilers zone-out, and an extra day off now may help. Still, it’s crazy.

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