ESPN had this comment to make,
"We had constructive conversations with the NHL offering them the opportunity for unprecedented distribution of every game of the Stanley Cup playoffs on ESPN platforms, including authentication to broadband and mobile devices."
It looks like what many fans had hoped will not happen, with the NHL not coming back to ESPN.
My take: The NHL really dropped the ball here. I understand that, even though financial terms have not been released, NBC/Versus most likely shelled out a ton of money to reserve the rights for the next ten years.
NBC/Versus need to keep the NHL because otherwise, NBC Sports would only generate ratings with the Olympics every four years, horse racing and Notre Dame football.
Versus would leave us with watching extreme car chases, bull riding and rodeos.
NBC/Versus needed the NHL much, much more than the NHL needed it.
What the NHL will miss out on his widespread distribution and exposure.
Turn on Sportscenter for an hour, and see how long the NHL is mentioned relative to every other sport. Maybe five minutes. And that's if there is a full slate of playoff games that day.
Did the NHL Make the Correct Decision?
That's approximately the same exposure the MLS gets, mainly because the MLS broadcasts games on ESPN.
The NHL could have taken advantage of having games broadcast on ESPN3.com or on ESPN2, which rarely broadcasts any important games these days.
Versus is still on so few standard cable packages that it is a hassle to try and view any game.
For example, I live in Philadelphia and have Dish Network. Dish Network charged me an extra 20 dollars a month to get a package that included Versus, which was grouped in with Fox Movies, Fox Soccer, Turner Movies, HDNet and various other 14th-tier channels.
This should not be the broadcaster of one of the four major US sports.
One of two things needs to change. Either NBC needs to carry more games (which I highly doubt it will because of the huge investment they have made to revamp their TV department) or Versus needs to become more readily available.
I have no idea what the terms of the deal are, but have Versus share in the NHL's revenue pool, so that they can charge a lower fee to the cable companies.
It is ridiculous that I live in one of the 10 largest cities in the United States, yet have to continuously pay an arm and a leg (I also have the NHL Centre Ice Package because I am a die-hard Penguins fan).
What should be more important to the NHL?
These games could have been broadcast on ESPN3.com, where they would be available to everyone across the nation (if their cable package complied with the deal), but instead the NHL took more money over exposure.
The argument all boils down to money vs. exposure.
Guess which one won?
For someone that cares deeply about the game, it severely disappoints me that more people will not get to see hockey.
And the NHL has no one to blame, but themselves.
Even if you aren't a hockey fan, yet are a common sense fan, you know that signing with ESPN was the right move.
Excuse me while most people flip on ESPN2, and instead of seeing the NHL playoffs, the watch a rerun of the 2008 World Series of Poker for the 480th time.
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