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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