Posts Tagged ‘TV’

KHL Capitalising on NHL Void

Posted: October 3, 2012 in Uncategorized
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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 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. 

Following from the post I did on the prices of the world championship ticket prices, it would appear that the tickets really aren’t selling like hot-cakes, specially for the host nations’ games. It today transpired that there are thousands of tickets left for sale with only three days to go till the opening face off.


Apparently for Finland’s games against France, Kazakstan and Switzerland there are between 1000 and 2000 tickets available, with other tickets that have been reserved but not yet picked up. That would mean that the Hartwall Arena (capacity 13,349) would have plenty of empty seats. Where the four other opening round games for Finland have been fully booked, it does not mean that the games would be sold out. There is still a vast number of tickets that have not been collected and if tickets are not collected they will go on sale again.


The cost for tickets to watch Finland play range from €156 to €196 per ticket. The organisers have said that the reason for the high ticket prices is due to the overall costs for arranging the games. The costs, according to the head secretary of the games, Mika Sulin, is €19 million. Theoretically the organisers have 350,000 tickets available and if all games were sold out at the price of €156 per ticket the organisers would gross €54,600,000 in ticket sales alone with net profit of €35,600,000. This does not include the sale of merchandise and other paraphernalia at the games.  


Obviously that figure does not include the tickets that have been given to sponsors or to travel agents to sell as a part of a package, so please bear in mind that it is a theoretical net profit, but I guess that the net profit of the games would far exceed the organisational costs.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that Finland is hosting the games and there is a great buzz about it in Finland, but with my biggest hockey heart on, I can’t understand or justify the ticket prices. I’m sure that the event itself is well organised, but one can only guess how many fans have been out-priced on the tickets.


Furthermore to the games, there was another story in the Finnish press that I picked up on was the fact of on the streams of the games. Usually by this time in the lead up to the games, you have been able to purchase a games pass from the site, but with two days to go, there is no such option available as yet. It’s rather alarming as like myself, many European hockey fans do not necessarily have access to channels in their local country of residence that would show the games. One example is the Northern Lights pub in Brighton, UK. I recently paid a visit to the pub and thought it was a great venue and gave me a little taste and feeling of home. Anyways, Northern Lights has for years been showing the games to the Scandinavian masse, but now it is looking rather bleak as the stream options have not been published.


Though I am still holding out hope that the streams will be available again this year, after all the IIHF tweeted me saying that the streams would be available, along with list of where to view (by this I imagine a list of TV channels in each region that show the games).


Hopefully another Scandinavian themed bar, called Pipeline in London will show the games. At least last year they managed to get a satellite feed of a Swedish channel showing the Final game. Even if it’ll be expensive to travel to London to watch the games, it’s still cheaper than buying a flight and tickets to see the games live from the Hartwall Arena.


Here’s to hoping that the streams will be announced soon, else I fear that there will be a number of disappointed fans across the world.

As this blog has documented in detail my struggles with concussion, I thought it would be a good idea to give you an update on what the after effects have been. You tend to read a lot about the symptoms of concussions, but once a player/person has gotten over the symptoms it is presumed that you carry on as normal.


Please do bear in mind that concussions vary from individual to individual and what I have experienced might not be applicable to some.


It has now been over six months since the concussion and I am symptom free from the actual concussion, but there have been several things that have not been the same. If you hear people who have suffered from concussions say that they have good and bad days, it is true. I have days when I feel normal and days when I still have to lock myself in a dark room due to intense migraine like headaches that have become more frequent since the concussion. When the headaches come they are pretty bad. It feels like someone is yanking at the inside of my eyeballs and I literally cannot move my head or I feel nauseous. There isn’t a set thing that I’ve noticed what would set it off, but sometimes it can be certain smells or even things like flashing lights.


The flashing lights is another thing that I can’t deal with. If I’m in a nightclub (rarely) I can’t be in for a long time as the lights they have really get to me and make me feel dizzy and that’s before I would’ve drank anything. The worse are strobe lights, if there is a strobe light that’s going off, I feel like I’m going to be sick. Other lights, what you normally see in clubs or at parties, give me a headache and ultimately ruin my night. Then again, I wasn’t that big on the club scene anyways so I’m perfectly happy to sit down at a bar or a pub.


The strobe light issue doesn’t have to be in clubs or on nights out. It’s also in films or TV when there are flashing lights or scenes that flash back and forth. Like in the movie Black Swan, the night club scene really made me turn away. Also I have trouble watching shows like the X-Factor (apart from the terrible singing and the mundane judges) due to the light show/screens they use.


The third biggest thing that I have noticed are short term memory problems. I still have a trouble remembering things that I have done or what I’ve been asked to do. A good example of this is from a few weeks ago when I left training and I could not remember where I had parked my car. I was wandering around the parking garage with a couple of teammates not being able to remember what level I had parked my car or where on the level I had parked it.


Then there is head banging or sudden jolts of the head i.e. if I sneeze. The head banging to music has stopped as I can visibly feel my brain move around in my head and it is an uncomfortable feeling. Similarly if I have a cold/flu and I sneeze and my head jerks because of it, it feels doubly bad.


So despite being over the main issues of the concussions it has had a profound effect on my life and the things that I do. Most of the time I don’t think about the concussion, but I still get reminders that I have suffered a blow that has altered things. Despite this, I still love to play and I am thankful that I am able to carry on playing, but most of all, I’m grateful that I can lead a normal life most of the time.

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:

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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As of today, 28th of September, with eight days to go till the puck drop for the NHL regular season, the NHL has made Game Centre Live available to Europeans. Where this is a step forward, many of us still want the games on television. Notably, like I mentioned in my open letter to the NHL, AMI Partners and Medge Consulting, the internet does provide the league with further opportunities, but it cannot solely rely on online presence.

I mentioned in my letter that some households cannot receive sufficient speeds to stream games and having watched the Game Centre Live introduction video on the site, it froze four times for me. This simply is not acceptable or a proper way to watch a high speed sport.

Game Centre Live will provide option for us to pay monthly for the subscription, but once you sign up you are tied to the contract and expected to make payments on schedule.


However, the bigger picture here is that the NHL has seemingly undercut Medge Consulting (the TV Rights owner) and provided Europeans with a way to watch the games, even if not in a desireable manner. What this means for Medge is that it will be even more difficult to come up with an agreement with broadcasters as GCL would appear a cheaper alternative to what Medge is selling the rights for. I would like to stress that the prices I’ve heard are rumours and I have no access to confirmed figures.

So what are the options then? For those who have fast internet access, GCL is a good way to go, but for me and I’m sure many in the same boat who receive only fraction of the promised internet speeds, will have to look elsewhere. Making GCL available to Europe IS NOT a solution to the problem. The NHL needs to be on TV AND online if it really wants to make its presence known in Europe. Where GCL offers us the opportunity to watch the games I can’t help but feel that the situation is a throwback to the 80s and mid 90s when it was seemingly impossible to watch live games on television (apart from the cup finals). Like I said, I fear that the NHL has taken a step back which will take more than five years to recover from as it has a lesser capacity to attract new fans in Europe.

There’s a Twitter handle to use for TV rights for Europe (#NHLTVDeal4Europe), so please spread the word and hopefully the powers that be will take notice and we can finally see a solution to the deadlock situation.

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.




Janne Virtanen