Dear Medge Consulting, AMI Partners and the NHL
I, like many of my peers in Europe are anxiously waiting for the new NHL season to begin. I’ve missed the long sleepless, Friday and Saturday nights that I’ve spent in front of my TV, watching the coolest game on earth. At the time of writing this, there are ten days to go till the puck drops for the 2011-2012 regular season. I would normally write how excited I am of this time of the year, but now I’m nothing but confused, concerned and angry.
However, like you may have guessed the current situation with the NHL broadcasting rights has left myself, and many others confused. I can understand that there are many broadcasters that you are speaking to, but seeing as the season is drawing closer, it is looking less and less likely that we will have the games on TV here in Europe. (I sincerely hope that this is not the case).
I know NHL is trying to push the sport here in Europe, but the current situation is doing little to help the leagues visibility on the ‘old-continent’. There is a huge number of fans that are tuning in to watch the games night in night out and many have subscribed to channels such as ESPN America or equivalent depending on their respective region.
What really annoys me, and I’m sure many of the fans in Europe, is that there seems to be a visible disconnect between the rights holders, the NHL and the fans. As many of us fans have had subscriptions to paid for channels, we have gone and cancelled our subscriptions, because a) the broadcaster cannot comment, b) the NHL is not commenting and c) Medge Consulting/AMI Partners have done little except issued a press release about the acquisition of the rights. How difficult is it to give some sort of guidance on the situation. The few articles I’ve read have Medge saying the “chances of having NHL on the TV in Europe is 100%”, and broadcasters saying that “at the moment I don’t think it is viable.” You can obviously see where the confusion comes from, can’t you.
I know there have been rumours of making the Game Centre Live available to Europe, but I ask you NHL, is this the right way forward? I know that we live in a digital age, where the internet presents countless opportunities. Call me old-school, but I sure like to watch my sports on my TV, in High-Definition without having to rely on internet connectivity.
Further to the point, if you really are looking to push the sport in Europe, please remember that not all countries are developed to the point that they could afford 20Mbps connections at every house. Heck, I’m lucky to get a 1Mbps connection and none of the providers can do much better. Am I to assume that I’m going to have to watch games, from game centre, with grainy image quality and with a connection that cuts out every 5 seconds? Hardly the experience one would want from the game of hockey. What about the price for the Game Centre then? In the past I have paid £10 for ESPN America per month and looking at the Game Centre prices for the USA, it does not look that attractive. Do you really want to start having fans flock to ‘illegal’ streaming links? At the moment it would seem that we have no other option.
Rather ironically, the games in Europe have sold tens of thousands of tickets, but you are losing out on a FAR GREATER audience by not having an agreement in place. I do actually sympathise with ESPN America as they have been backed into a corner and have undoubtedly lost a huge amount of revenue due to the loss of the games as many fans have cancelled their subscriptions to the channel. Surely this situation is not ideal.
Many of the articles I have read about the rights, quote broadcasters saying that the price Medge Consulting and AMI Partners have on the games is so extortionate that it makes little business sense to take on the games. The NHL has said on many occasions that it wants to expand the visibility and the league in the Europe, but I can’t help but wonder that the old adage of ‘money talks and BS walks’ is the true motive behind the sale of the rights.
This really isn’t the way to push a sport further into Europe and keep avid fans in tune with the best sports league in the world. At the moment, even the KHL looks like a more competent league in terms of broadcasting than the NHL does. Whatever the outcome of this mess is, I fear that the NHL has shot itself in the foot BIG TIME for the next five years.
I’d like to think that I’ve highlighted some of the feelings of the fans in Europe regarding the broadcasting rights.