Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Three More Years of Not Being Able to Watch Hockey

I live in a college dorm, and my life is more or less at the discretion of the University. They control a lot of things. That's thanks to the computer chip they put in my brain, but that's a story for another day. Among the things they control are what TV stations we do and don't get. I'm not going to complain, because utilities, internet and TV are all included no matter how much you use them (Leave the water running all the time! Yay!). I'm in no position to complain.

But you can imagine my reaction when the NHL signed an agreement to extend it's TV contract with that network that no one can find for another three years. That means I will be able to continue not watching hockey for another three years (assuming I don't move out of the dorms, which is a very likely possibility).

For the NHL, the move is a no-brainer. They're going to get about $72 million per year to dish out the rights to Versus. From Greg Wyshinski at the FanHouse, who I believe never sleeps but can't prove it, is the following:

The bottom line is ... well, the bottom line: Comcast is willing to pay the NHL a rights fee (following the New York Times's math, well over $72 million per season) that no other network would seek to pay for the rights to regular season hockey games. The League is already in one public access deal with NBC; it came to OLN for the money in the first place, and it simply can't leave this kind of money on the table with Versus.

Yup. I can't say I would leave that on the table. It's hard to imagine another network ponying up that much for the NHL at this point, so for the league it's a good deal. As long as you think decreased exposure is a good deal.

Meanwhile, ESPN has been airing more and more hockey coverage every night. This had conspiracy theorists like myself that a return to the WWL was imminent. I'll be interested to see the reaction, in terms of coverage, from the WWL in the weeks and months following this announcement. Hopefully we don't go back to jokes about irrelevance and turning a blind eye to a sport that is, in fact, still a major player in North America.


  1. Damnit! I live in the dorms too, and since Salem sketches me out, will possibly continue to live here. Fortunately I get my get out of jail free card in two years, but still. That's two years without hockey. Think of how much more money the league could pull in with ticket and merchandise sales with a little more exposure. Everyone and their brother in Minnesota has shirts, hats, jerseys, and the like. None of that is cheap. Long term! My econ class would tell them to think longer term, but alas, clearly all of them slept through that class.

  2. I think you should have some faith Kev ... yes you get to miss Versus, but that isn't a bad thing as their coverage is lacking. And, while I refuse to call my former employer the WWL, I think that Bristol will end up with a piece of the NHL pie. They can divvy it up like they did with the NBA - TNT gets games, ABC gets games and ESPN gets games. If the evil empire actually thought that there was even a chance that Versus would have exclusive rights, then there would have been no increase in coverage. My guess is that the small print of the deal with Versus allows the NHL to seek out games to share with other networks ... ESPN2.

  3. I'm still curious as to why Versus can only show games two nights out of the week. Hello, Saturday or Sunday primetime?

  4. It remains to be seen whether the extension has the option for other networks (i.e., the WWL) to also share rights. I hate, HATE Vs. but am ambivalent about ESPN. Such is like as a Center Ice subscriber. I am no longer shackled, I have broken free of my bonds!

  5. @WufPirate: I agree. Could be contractually obligated with other programming perhaps? I'm surprised since the NHL is probably their golden programming nugget, they do not show more games during the week.