Posts Tagged ‘ESPN’

KHL Capitalising on NHL Void

Posted: October 3, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

Last year, and during the Ice Hockey World Championships  I blogged extensively about the television rights and something from today’s locked out NHL news caught my eye. ESPN is in the process of including KHL into its programming on its ESPN3 channel. With NHL relying heavily on TV revenue (part of the revenue that goes into the collective pot that’s now under dispute), the news of ESPN sniffing at KHL could be disastrous news for the NHL.

 

During the last lockout, NHL lost ESPN as a media partner and has not been able to bring it back to the fold. In fact, Teemu Selanne wrote on his MTV3.fi blog, that ESPN actually picked Texas Hold ‘em poker over the NHL after the last lockout and has not really sniffed at hockey, apart from covering news and bits on its website.

 

Last summer, the NHL sold its European broadcasting rights to Medge Consulting and AMI partners, which meant that the ‘old continent’ was without hockey on TV when the regular season started. There were various rumours of different deals and what channels would land the NHL and where European viewers could watch the sport, apart through its Game Centre Live application.

 

As for the TV deal state side, the NHL signed a $2-billion contract with NBC-Universal, part of Comcast Corp’s television arm. The deal would land the NHL on the NBC channels through the next decade and hands the NHL $125-million more per season.

 

As the NHL is now locked out, the KHL has a huge opportunity to gain more mainstream coverage in North America and why not; the league is now home to some of the games’ brightest stars such as Alex Ovechkin, Pekka Rinne and Jevgeni Malkin to name but a few. Though the KHL has been a big draw for mainly the Russian born NHL players, it wouldn’t surprise me if some Canadian born players will start making their treks across to the Russian league.

 

Yes, the KHL’s TV deal is what one could call a temporary deal, which includes broadcasting five games for now, but there are rumors floating around in the twittersphere that the league is already in talks with a Canadian broadcaster to include the league within its schedules. Sure the hours of the games might not be sociable to North America, but conversely, the NHL isn’t exactly something you can watch live on a Sunday afternoon if you are based in Europe, but the fact is that if there’s good level hockey to be watched on TV, fans will watch it.

 

The NHL lockout is probably the best thing that has happened to the KHL. In-fact, the league is working hard to get an English language site and Facebook site set up as well as an English language of equivalent of its GCL. So far the league has published step by step guide on how to subscribe to the Russian version of the online streaming service to broaden its fan base across the globe. The KHL is even playing a match in New York this season and if the NHL can’t sort out its CBA issues, it will only strengthen the proposition of the KHL in the bigger market.

 

So with ESPN in the bag (at least for a couple of games) the KHL is quickly becoming a formidable threat to the NHL who already announced that it has lost $100-million in lost revenues due to the cancelled pre-season games, but for the KHL it is a time for growth and it has seized the opportunity that the NHL lockout presented. Had the lockout not have happened, I believe the KHL would have pursued North American broadcasting contracts, but it is in a great bargaining position at the moment due to the lockout and has not held back a single stride and is quickly moving to establish itself across the Atlantic. 


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.

 

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