Posts Tagged ‘ESPN America’


Following the post I made about IIHF pulling the plug on the live YouTube broadcasts, I’ve had a couple of interesting tweets about it, one of which was sent by Steve Morrell (https://twitter.com/#!/rafanapa). Steve’s tweet got me thinking about why watching games live as they happen is so important.

 

Right off the bat I must admit that the best way to enjoy a sports event is to watch it where it happens. Obviously with the hockey world champs it is impossible for me to watch it in Helsinki (read the previous posts and you’ll see why). As the games are not broadcast on UK TV, or on any other channel that I receive, the Internet has become such an important medium for me to follow sports from back home. But why is watching it live so important? For me it is all about the passion, the heat of the moment and knowing that I am watching the action as it happens, each stride, hit, pass and shot at a time. I have tried watching recorded or deferred NHL games and I just cannot get into those broadcasts as I know that the game has taken place already.

 

For example, throughout the year, I have not watched a single deferred NHL broadcast from Premier Sports, even if I don’t know the score of the game. It might be a personal thing, but I just can’t get into the feeling of the game, knowing that it has been played already. It’s the same with any sport I follow, be it F1, cross country skiing, ski jumping etc. If the event has been and gone and there is a repeat broadcast I will not watch it. In the past when the NHL was with ESPN America, I watched a couple of the “As Live” broadcasts and it was like I was watching a TV soap. The  TV was on but I wasn’t really watching it.

 

Hockey, to me, is about passion, feelings, love, knowledge and sharing the event with likeminded fans. To me following hockey live is about shouting at the top of my lungs either in Finnish or English, literally living and breathing every moment as if I was at the arena watching the game with my own two eyes. For the live broadcasts of games I tend to live with the commentators of the game and get immersed into how they view the game and how they live the game, like Antti Makinen from the Finnish NelonenPro when he called the game between New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7RwBk6ZgrU

 

Another thing that has become to play a huge part in the way we watch sports is social media. We are increasingly commenting on the games we are watching through Twitter and engaging with like-minded people. We comment on the games on blogs, Facebook groups, we follow our favourite teams and associated fan groups to get more updates and information from the events.

 

The only concern I have for sports fans and social media is that we will turn into a horde of people who go to a game and sit there staring at our phones, updating our various social networks, rather than focus on the events them selves.

 

I guess the best experience of watching a live game on TV I can remember was from last years’ World Championship finals. Me and three other Finns trekked from our homes in the South-East to London to watch the final at the Pipeline Bar. It was the atmosphere at the bar and the anticipation of watching the event live in a bar, which felt like you were watching it on home soil.

 

The other fond memories that I have of watching live games is with my friend Christian while we both lived in Southampton. It was like a regular Saturday thing to have a bunch of guys at his place to have a few beers to watch the games live from NASN (now ESPN America). We never got together to watch the “As Live Broadcasts”. There simply wasn’t the same kind of feel, or anticipation for the games to start and to wait for the events to unfold, knowing that the games had been played.

 

There is a lot more that goes into watching a live broadcast of a game, but it would be difficult to explain, and to every person the experience is different. I guess I’m trying to explain what watching live games, whether on scene or on TV means to me and why repeats, 30 minute delays or re-runs don’t appeal to me.

 

 


After speaking to a source working within ESPN about the hockey situation and the broadcast mess, I learnt an interesting fact about the coverage deal for the UK. For understandable reasons I cannot name the source, but the source does work for ESPN and is credible.

It appears that for the UK ESPN America actually bid more for the rights to broadcast NHL than Premier Sports did, but what clinched the deal for Premier Sports was that they promised the NHL and the rights holders that they would be doing more promotional work around the game and that they would make a hard push to get more people interested in the game.

ESPN America was really interested and wanted to carry on showing the NHL in the UK, but as MarkUKLeaf mentioned on his blog: “Commissioner Bettman said to me on the phone that they didn’t want to deal with ESPN America as hockey had to compete with other US sports like baseball and basketball.”

Where I am sure Premier Sports is doing its best to do this, there are people out there who feel disappointed by the coverage so far. There has been numerous calls for half time analysis shows instead of adverts or the interview segments (I’m sorry I forget what it’s called as I automatically change channels for the break). After tweeting Premier Sports about this during their first Hockey Night In Canada broadcast, which I eagerly anticipated with pre-game and the stunning intro videos that CBC is renowned for, I was disappointed to learn that these will not be shown.

The tweet from Premier Sports read: “we are only allowed to take the games at the moment not studio as the rights for that are separate. We are trying for CBC.” Encouraging, but not really ideal. Though please do bear in mind that there was a similar issue with NASN/ESPN America a few years ago where they couldn’t show the CBC feed of the games.

Now here is the real kicker in all of this. According to my source, the deal was in place WEEKS before the games went on air with Premier Sports. So a deal was in place weeks before the season even started and Europe was left in the dark for nearly A MONTH into the season. I can’t help but feel a little bit cheated by the all parties involved. Surely it would’ve been beneficial for both the league and Premier Sports to get off to a better start with the new programme.

I can’t help but feel that the NHL wanted to have the Nordic region deal in place before allowing other media partners to release the fact they carried the sport.

Just a shame that us fans were cheated with this.


It looks like Finland is going to have NHL on the TV as well now. According to Finnish magazine, Urheilulehti, the games will be shown on Viasat and Nelone Pro channels. What gives credibility to the rumours is that there have been tweets going around from sources close to NelonenPro to say that they hope to have something soon and a Swedish press release posted on the Viasat pages about the NHL.

According to Urheilulehti, the deal would cover the next five years (also the length for which Medge Consulting has the rights for). Earlier last week, EPSN America announced that it had withdrawn from the NHL in UK, Ireland and Scandinavia/Nordics. Finland, a known hotbed for hockey, has not had any NHL games shown, apart from the Premiere games that took place in Helsinki and Stockholm.

Urheilulehti says that the deal is radical change to last year as Viasat and Nelonen Pro can broadcast as many games as they want and the channels can choose which games they are going to show due to the exclusivity of the deal. This would allow the channels to broadcast games that are most interesting to their audiences and have greater flexibility among the broadcast of games. So theoretically, if Viasat and Nelonen Pro so wish, they could show a game or two every night of the week, which seems a hell of a lot better than deal than some other countries have gotten.

The deal is quite different to the one that was unveiled in the UK with Premier Sports that are going to be showing ‘up-to 10 games per week’. As for Premier sports, they have expanded the offering of the games, but majority of the games are still showing Western Conference teams and most have a start time of 3am UK time.

Medge Consulting and Viasat are expected to make an official announcement about the rights during this week, according to Urheilulehti. There has been no confirmation on what will happen with Game center live in the countries the deal will effect, and whether Viasat and Nelonen Pro will offer their own online streams as part of the package.

I guess everyone remembers that GCL was switched off in the region for the NHL Premiere games aired on Nelonen Pro and Viasat.

 

The original story can be found here (in Finnish only) http://www.urheilulehti.fi/jaakiekko/latkafanien-piina-ohi-%E2%80%93-nhl-palaa-vihdoin-suomalaiseen-televisioon#.TpwpSV5nrvY.twitter


This statement was just released by ESPN America:

““Unfortunately, the NHL will not be part of the programming schedule on ESPN and ESPN America in the UK, Ireland or Nordic countries this season.
ESPN spoke to the NHL and their rights holders about continuing a partnership in these regions but we could not reach an agreement that worked for everyone.
We wish the National Hockey League and its new partners all the best while we remain in active discussions with them about coverage in many other parts of Europe.

Our channels will continue to provide a wide range of live sport, award-winning documentaries, original news & chat shows, and more.”

Judging by this, each of the countries will have a regional sports channel showing the NHL this year. For the UK the rights have been sold to Premier Sports and in the Czech Republic to Nova Sports. This suggests that channels like Viasat or Nelonen Pro might be getting NHL on the screens in the Nordics.

However, ESPN America has only pulled out from the Nordics, UK and Ireland, it does not mean that it wouldn’t pick up the broadcast for other European countries where a deal is not in place as of yet.

There is still no update as to whether GameCenter Live will be switched off, or if it will remain accessible to viewers in Europe.

Though ESPN America has pulled out, I would argue that in benefit of the sport it would be better to have the games on as many channels as possible, however, I can only guess that channels that have purchased the rights have demanded these on an exclusive basis to ensure that they can snag up as big of a share of the market as possible.


We are a week in to the new NHL season and where GameCenter Live works again and people seem happy with it, the UK has seemingly bagged itself a TV deal through Premier Sports TV, which will be on Sky channel 433. The NHL section is on the Premier Sports web-site, though at the moment there aren’t too many games listed for live broadcasts as yet, but this could be as the deal is seemingly new. In a Tweet by Premier Sports TV said “We have the NHL! Starts live this weekend and we aim to show as many games live as possible in UK. Up to 10 a week.”

However, despite the long wait for a TV deal, many fans in the UK have turned to Twitter to say that GCL is still a preferred option for them, mainly due to the fact that it offers more games. We will have to wait and see how the situation develops with Premier Sports and what type of games they will be offering in the coming weeks. Hopefully they will offer a similar sort of standard in games to that of ESPN America. The schedule for Premier Sports hockey can be found at: http://www.premiersports.tv/

However, Premier Sports is not available to Virgin Media customers, which is not ideal as this is clearly cutting out a portion of the market and potential viewership. Additionally, Premier Sports does not have an HD channel on Sky, which means that fans that subscribe to the channel would have to watch the games in regular definition. Personally ESPN America spoiled me with HD broadcasts and in my elitist mind, I sort of snubbed the non-HD channel.

There is no confirmation as of yet, whether Premier Sports will be available on Virgin Media Also there is no confirmation as yet whether the TV deal would mean that the NHL would block GCL for the UK market as it did in the Nordics during the NHL Premiere games. Personally my opinion is to not shut down GCL as it would cause a huge uproar among fans who have paid for it and clearly enjoy the service. I’ve maintained from the start that to truly expand, the NHL needs a TV and an online presence in Europe. Though in the crazy times that it has gone through with the TV rights, it wouldn’t surprise me if they decided to pull the plug. However, the TV deal does offer a glimmer of hope for people like me whose internet connection is not able to support the streams from GCL.

As for the rest of Europe, there is no deal in place as yet, though I have seen suggestive comments coming from a couple of broadcasters saying that they have heard encouraging news about the rights.

The time is right for the NHL to get the mess sorted out as soon as possible. The league has an ideal opportunity in its hands to gain more fans in Europe. As the NBA seems to be heading into a lock out season, the MLB season is on the final stretch, the NHL has a great opportunity to convert a couple of fans into hockey lovers with the offerings of American sports on the European continent winding down with several leagues being close to the finish line.

I will look to provide more info on the wider European TV rights as soon as I hear anything. I would also urge any fans looking to subscribe to the channel to wait just a little while to see how the offering improves/changes as at the moment, it looks rather slim.

Update: Premier Sports has tweeted to say that it will be aiming to show 10 games per week, mainly live and that all games would be repeated. The subscription to the channel is £7.99 per month. I’m a bit curious about the word ‘mainly’ in the tweet however.

 

For the best deals on top ice hockey gear, please click on the image below:


Last night I put together a post about Viasat buying the TV rights for the Nordic region and reported that many fans were outraged by the decision, mainly because the NHL Game Centre Live was blocked in the countries affected.

It would appear that Viasat has also acquired the broadband broadcasting rights for the NHL in the Nordics region, but it would seem that they are not doing anything with it at the moment, which has enraged fans in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

When the NHL sold the broadcasting rights to Medge and AMI, it also sold the broadband broadcasting rights and as far as I can tell, where there were no broadband/internet broadcasting deals in place, the NHL started selling its in-house product to the European market.

As the Viasat agreement also includes broadband coverage, the NHL has had to pull the plug on Game Centre Live in the Nordics due to conflict of interest, effectively creating a monopoly in the region for watching games.

As for Viasat and the quality of the product they offer: I’ve watched the last two Stanley Cup Finals from Viasat during my holiday in Finland and they deliver a good quality product, with localised commentators who actually know hockey and know what they are talking about.

However, the gripes that I’ve seen is that it is yet another TV package that people would have to subscribe to and with no broadband screening package available (at the time of writing), it has caused fans to get irate about it.

ESPN TV UK has also tweeted today to say that they are in talks with Medge and AMI with hopes to get an agreement in place soon. Whether that would include ESPN Player I’m not too sure about, but it would seem to make sense that they struck up that agreement as well.

UPDATE (15:48 GMT): Since posting this story, it would seem like there has been further developments into the story. Finnish tabloid Ilta-Lehti has reported that the TV deal for Nordics will only cover the NHL Premiere games. Medge Consulting has done as much as posted a Swedish news bulletin on their site to say that the deal is in place to cover the NHL Premiere games for Nordics. Well done Medge, really, well done.

This situation is starting to get beyond confusing and with mere hours to go till opening face off, we are still none the wiser, whether the Nordics (or the whole of Europe for that matter) have an all encompassing TV deal in place or not. At the moment, I’m starting to feel like you need a degree in astro physics to work this mess out.

I would like to apologise if my post caused any confusion, but I’m trying to stay on top of the developments.

 

EDIT 2: (17:32 GMT): The NHL has issued a statement regarding this whole mess. Good job, you got it online mere hours before puck drop for the first games. I’ve copied the whole statement below, but by the looks, we are still far from a situation where a TV deal would be announced.

ATTENTION EUROPEAN FANS:

The NHL’s goal this season is to bring more programming content and live games than ever to our passionate and loyal European fans. In connection with that pursuit, today we have launched six native-language Web sites (Czech, Finnish, German, Russian, Slovak, Swedish). NHL GameCenter LIVE enables our international fans to enjoy live and on-demand games via streaming video on broadband, mobile and tablet devices.

On the television side, we continue to work throughout Europe to bring NHL hockey to our fans. While these negotiations are ongoing, we remain optimistic that we soon will soon have agreements to announce. We thank you for your continued patience, as we continue to work diligently toward this goal.

The following are the local broadcast listing for the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere:

Friday, October 7:
2011 Compuware NHL Premiere Stockholm
7:00pm: New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings
TV10 and online via Viaplay (Sweden)

2011 Compuware NHL Premiere Helsinki
8:00pm: Anaheim Ducks vs. Buffalo Sabres
Nelonen Sport Pro (Finland)

Saturday, October 8:
2011 Compuware NHL Premiere Stockholm
7:00pm: New York Rangers vs. Anaheim Ducks
TV6/Viasat Hockey and online via Viaplay (Sweden), Nelonen Sport Pro (Finland)

NHL Live Games Online:
The 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere Games will be available through NHL GameCenter LIVE everywhere except Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark. In those countries, the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere games will be made available online via “Viaplay.”


The puck drops tomorrow and fans across the world are waiting with bated breath to watch the games. None more than the European NHL fans as the situation over broadcast rights is still up in the air. Fans have been campaigning across social media platforms to raise the issue to NHL and those involved. Even Brent Burns from the San Jose Sharks re-tweeted one of the #NHLTV4Europe tweets last night.

 

The last few days has seen Puck Daddy put a story together on the issue and even quoted the open letter I put together. I was just trawling twitter and I saw one of my followers Teemu Tammilehto (@tammarii) tweet that there is a TV agreement in place and that Game Centre Live has been blocked.

 

A thread on HF boards has users in Nordic countries saying that Game Centre Live is blocked and many other users from countries such as Germany are reporting similar problems. It would transpire that there is a broacast agreement in place for the Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and Denmark) would have a TV deal in place with Viasat. But reading the comments on HF Boards, it would seem that the decision has enraged many fans (read the thread here: http://hfboards.com/showthread.php?t=943727&page=16).

 

To me this is an encouraging step, but still a double edged sword situation. In my initial blog and the follow up I said that the NHL needs a TV deal in Europe and a presence online, but with the broadcast agreement now in place, it would appear that the online broadcasting rights are up in the air.

 

 

Users who subscribed to Game Centre Live have received the following message:

 

“Unfortunately, NHL GameCenter Live is no longer available in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. The NHL is now being broadcast in your region through Viasat.

A refund has been applied to your account. Please allow 7-10 business days to see this reflected back on your credit card statement.

NHL Web Support”

 

 

I’ve been critical of the Game Centre Live route, but don’t get me wrong, the GCL is a great product but with most internet providers failing to deliver the promised speeds, users would have hugely differing experiences with watching games. For me personally GCL would’ve been a painstaking experience, much like watching the World Championships through IIHF.com.

 

However, as Viasat now has rights to broadcast games, there is no indication whether there will be online broadcasts and to what degree. The NHL needs to have both televised and online presence globally to really market the sport. TV will provide fans like me an outlet to watch games and the Internet provides the option of giving fans the option of what games they will watch.

 

Further to the point, there seems to be some sort of light at the end of the tunnel on getting the debacle sorted out, though there are many more markets that need to be covered and Medge and AMI are running out of time.

 

Apologies for the rambling nature of the post, but I wanted to get the information up ASAP. I will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as and when they happen.

 

Let’s hope that we will all be able to watch games in time for the opening face off, whether it is on TV or online. Or who knows, both.