Wednesday, August 10, 2005

NHL TV Deals -- Jokes, Right?

By Nick Faris
Red Line Corp.

The NHL, already with TV deals with US hockey giants ESPN and NBC, inked a two-year deal with cable giant Comcast for $100 million. Comcast will air two games a week nationally once the season starts. Those games are thought to be aired on one of Comcast's channels...The Outdoor Life Network.

OLN? Why would anyone want to watch hockey on the Outdoor Life Network? Last time I checked, there had been one regular-season played outdoors, and that was made to be a classic. Hockey isn't outdoor life - that title falls to the Calgary Stampede, fishing shows, and Lance Armstrong on a bike. Even if there are a few yellow jerseys in the NHL, they won't be worn outside arenas.

Has hockey really fallen to the level of the rodeo? As if anybody will watch hockey on OLN. No one in the US watched it in the first place - why would they want to see it on a channel that should be reserved for Caribbean Workout?

Which brings me to ESPN. After the Comcast deal is approved by the NHL's Board of Governers (basically just a formality), the NHL will forward it to ESPN, which has the right to match any offer. ESPN has carried the NHL since 1985. Who would watch hockey on a channel that shows hot dog eating contests, poker, and darts before the sport? No wonder the NHL's ratings are so low in the US.

But seriously, compared to NBC, ESPN is a hockey giant. NBC inked a two-year deal with the NHL prior to the lockout. Of approximately 1000 games during the regular season, NBC will televise seven. At least it's more than in the playoffs, where six will be shown, and all but the first two games of the Stanley Cup final. Realistically, that means as low as 15 games will be shown, and as many as 18.

These TV deals are jokes, right? At least in Canada the NHL is in a safe haven with Hockey Night in Canada on CBC (even with Leaf fans Bob Cole and Harry Neale announcing, but that's another story).

So when October 5th comes around, I'll be watching hockey on TV (finally) - quality Canadian hockey.

Gary Bettman, you can watch OLN.

I'll be away until Monday. A new article will appear then.


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