NHL Lockout 2012: Could Recent NBC Sports Network Ratings Affect Work Stoppage?

Nicholas GossCorrespondent IOctober 9, 2012

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman talks with Bob Costas of NBC Sports.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman talks with Bob Costas of NBC Sports.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Hockey fans aren't the only people who want the NHL lockout to end as soon as possible, the folks at NBC Sports also need the work stoppage to end quickly.

Per John Ourand of the SportsBusiness Journal (via Sporting News):

An expected Olympic bounce has instead turned into an Olympic hangover for NBC Sports Network, which has seen viewership ratings plunge to historic lows just weeks after setting record highs in London.

How does the NHL factor into NBC's future? Here is more from Ourand's article.

Insiders feel the network’s struggles can be attributed to the lack of enough live events during the week to attract viewers. This month, old movies like “Rocky” and “Any Given Sunday” have had coveted prime-time positions and have brought the biggest audiences to the network.

The prospect of losing NHL games due to the lockout further complicates the channel’s fall schedule.

“Live events are what draws viewers to sports networks,” Adgate said. “If the NHL doesn’t play, NBC Sports Network won’t have a lot of compelling live events.”

Will the latest news on the network's poor ratings have an effect on the lockout?

If the network's ratings fail to improve for the rest of October and into November, it's quite possible that NBC could play a role in forcing the league to pick up the pace in the ongoing labor negotiations.

If the NHL wants to do business with NBC Sports in the future, the league must prove to the network that it won't do anything to damage their partnership by not being able to end labor disputes.

There's no question that NHL games are a crucial part of the NBC Sports Network's programming throughout the year year, so there is a lot at stake for the network during this lockout.

Adding to NBC's problems is the fact that ESPN and the KHL have struck a deal to air games during the lockout. There will actually be a KHL game on ESPN2 Tuesday afternoon featuring Alexander Ovechkin's Dynamo Moscow team versus Zdeno Chara and Lev Praha.

Without the Thanksgiving Showdown, the Winter Classic and the Stanley Cup playoffs, it's hard to imagine sports fans watching NBC Sports Network very often over the next eight months.

Once NBC's Sunday Night Football schedule concludes, and the NFL's playoff games are done, the network won't have one of the four major sports to showcase if the NHL's lockout is still going in mid-January. The NBC Sports Network does not broadcast NBA or MLB games at any point in the season.

If the lockout continues with little progress made toward getting a new collective bargaining agreement done, NBC Sports could be one party that plays a part in saving the 2012-13 NHL season.

Sometimes we forget about the effect that these lockouts have on television networks, but right now, NBC needs the NHL more than ever.


Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Follow him on Twitter.