Posts Tagged ‘TV Rights’


In a shocking turn of events, the IIHF has turned around and stopped the free live broadcasts of the World Championships. The decision, is according to an IIHF statement, based on some fans in the geoblocked countries bypassing the blocking mechanism to watch the games, rather than use services provided by TV rights holders. The games will still be shown for free via YouTube, but with a 30 minute delay to the service, which negates the point of watching the games.

 

The World Championships have been a total farce from start to finish and this is the last nail in the coffin. The free YouTube streams were a step forwards in exposing the sport and the sponsors of the games to a whole new audience, whilst extending the service to those who wanted to follow their nation play, but lived in a country where there was no TV deal in place. The release by IIHF cites that “today’s step was taken to prevail illegal attempts to access the streaming countries that were geoblocked due to exclusive contracts.” I’m sorry, but bypassing a geoblock is not illegal. It may not be ethical, but it is by no stretch of imagination illegal. It’s a complete disgrace to the IIHF that they have blocked a service that was enjoyed by the fans, regardless of the fact whether some users bypassed the blocking mechanisms in place. Furthermore, I can’t believe that an organisation like the IIHF is so out of touch with the internet that they thought that a geoblock would work. What the IIHF has failed to realise is that as long as something is broadcast on to the web, whether by an “authorised” TV provider, the feed will ultimately end up in the Internet where users like myself can watch it for free. So my question is why block it on that premise? Surely the best way to tackle the issue of illegal streams is to do what the IIHF did in the first place, by offering a free, high quality stream of the games.

 

The official statement read: Bruno Marty, Excecutive Director Wintersports, said: “We deeply regret that we have to take this step, in particular for all the ice hockey followers out there who just want to enjoy the games online on YouTube. However, we currently see no other option to protect the existing media rights agreements with our broadcast partners, as some so called fans decided not to play fair and to illegally surpass existing copyright and geoblocking mechanism.”

 

I have a feeling that the geoblocking has nothing to do with the fact the games were pulled. I have a feeling that broadcasters in countries where the rights have switched hands (I’m looking at Finland here) have kicked up a fuss, because the live streams took away customers from the pay for channels. What makes the IIHF think that the users who have been watching the games via YouTube will suddenly flock to a TV provider and pay an arm and a leg for a viewing pack?

 

What’s surprising even further is that the IIHF has not even brought in an option it has hosted previous years and allow users to buy a country pass or a tournament pass to watch the games. That way users could at least still watch, what the IIHF calls legal streams, and make a profit out of it on the side. Delaying the games by 30 minutes just negates the point of watching a game! What is the point when you have an app for a phone that tells you the score. Wake the hell up IIHF.

 

Like I said these world championships have been a total farce from the start, with the ticket prices and price slashes and free ticket giveaways. All the while Rene Fasel and the organisers have talked about a great brand they have to protect, but this decision sees the IIHF take the brand and wipe its ass with it!

 

It’s completely puzzling how the KHL can show the entire regular season via YouTube, including playoffs, and have no trouble with it? How can the IIHF find this context so hard and difficult?

 

I will conclude this post on this picture as it is now more pertinent than ever (With thanks to Esko Seppanen and Urheilulehti). My parting thoughts would be to curse at the IIHF, but what’s the point?

 

Image


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.


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.


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.