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Fox, Turner interested in NHL U.S. TV Rights...

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03-07-2011, 04:12 PM
  #1
The Hockey Suit
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Fox, Turner interested in NHL U.S. TV Rights...

The NHL trade deadline has come and gone, finally we can get back to chatting about more important issues. No NHL issue will be more revered or critiqued this summer than the future of NHL hockey on TV.

Last month it was reported that the NHL and NBC Sports/Versus were close to a deal. Things have done a bit of u-ey since then (thanks to the MillerCoors deal) and now the Sports Business Daily is reporting that Fox and Turner are entering the bidding war, which already includes ESPN.

According to the Sports Business Daily, Fox is looking to bring sports programming to its cable channel FX. Meanwhile, Turner is looking to beef up its current sports package (NBA & NASCAR), as well as add sports programming to its TruTV cable channel, which will include NCAA Tournament games. Obviously having NHL games on TruTV isn’t going to win over any critics, but I could live with having games on FX or TNT.

I have posted numerous times on my site that the NHL should ultimately go back to airing games on ESPN, mostly because of the channel’s promotional power and broader distribution. Now that Turner and Fox are involved, it will look even more impractical to re-up with Versus, which is in the least amount of homes of all the aforementioned networks. ESPN/ESPN2 are in over 100 million homes, FX is available in 96 million homes, TruTV is in 92 million homes, meanwhile Versus is only available in 76 million homes.

Last time around the NHL just went with the highest bidder. This time they should focus on the bigger picture and look beyond the spreadsheets. I mean you just can’t put a monetary figure to how much ESPN has helped to restore the NBA’s image.

Hockey is in a much better position than it was 6 years ago and it would be foolish to turn down the marketing/penetration strength of these other channels. Hopefully as we get closer to summer and the bidding war wages on, the NHL will come to its senses.

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03-07-2011, 04:18 PM
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The NBA image is lower than any point that I can remember, driven partly by ESPN's ridiculous coverage of 'the decision'.

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03-07-2011, 04:48 PM
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Originally Posted by The Hockey Suit View Post
I have posted numerous times on my site that the NHL should ultimately go back to airing games on ESPN, mostly because of the channel’s promotional power and broader distribution.
Oh yeah? How did that work out for the NHL from 2000-2004? Best I remember, the league was sliding directly into the toilet around that time... all with the help of ESPN's famous "promotional power" and "broader distribution".


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Originally Posted by The Hockey Suit View Post
ESPN/ESPN2 are in over 100 million homes, FX is available in 96 million homes, TruTV is in 92 million homes, meanwhile Versus is only available in 76 million homes.
And yet Versus is still beating the holy crap out of ESPN NHL ratings from 2004 (the most recent year the NHL was broadcast on ESPN).

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Originally Posted by The Hockey Suit View Post
I mean you just can’t put a monetary figure to how much ESPN has helped to restore the NBA’s image.
Since we're talking hockey, let's remember that ESPN did absolutely nothing to "restore" the NHL's image when they had the cable rights. A more appropriate word might be "destroy" or "tarnish". They did literally everything they could to mock and degrade the NHL brand in the early 2000's.

In business (especially the entertainment business) branding is everything. Wilfully damaging your company's brand is an unforgiveable sin. The NHL shouldn't go back to ESPN under any circumstances. Use them as leverage, bur never go back. Ever.

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03-07-2011, 04:53 PM
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Originally Posted by MountainHawk View Post
The NBA image is lower than any point that I can remember, driven partly by ESPN's ridiculous coverage of 'the decision'.
So says hockey fans.

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03-07-2011, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by go kim johnsson 514 View Post
So says hockey fans.
Googling NBA image problem seems to give a lot more than just hockey fans.

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03-07-2011, 05:33 PM
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Originally Posted by go kim johnsson 514 View Post
So says hockey fans.
Agreed on this point. That said I don't know if I would say that ESPN has restored the NBA's image like the original poster said. Mainly because I don't know if there was anything to restore. I'm not an NBA fan, but my impression was that the "high" point of the NBA on tv was back when the NBA was on NBC. I believe the NBA's rating on ABC have generally been a lot lower compared to NBC (granted some of that has to do with the changing landscape of tv). It is also my impression that the marquee NBA telecasts are the ones on TNT not ESPN.

ESPN there is so much going on there that they don't really do marquee telecast well. Their telecasts seem to blend together and some can get lost in the shuffle. That would happen to the NHL IMO. Sure it might take a more prominent role if the NBA and NFL go through lockouts, but those are only temporary. What happens the other 4-7 years of any long term deal?

With the NBC/Comcast merger I don't know if there is something that ESPN can offer that NBC can't also. Especially since ESPN would likely be a cable only deal. Plus with the NBC deal the league is going to take a more prominent place and probably more money. They both have numerous channels they can promote the games on (though again you are probably going to get more promotion with NBC).

All things being equal I don't see the league leaving where they are now.

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03-07-2011, 06:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainHawk View Post
Googling NBA image problem seems to give a lot more than just hockey fans.
Googling "December 21, 2012" and having 24 kajillion results about the apocalypse doesn't mean the world is ending on December 21, 2012.

The only thing ESPN did that they did not intend to do was re-cast LeBron as a villain. ESPN is as healthy as it's ever been. People keep saying how despicable "The Decision" was, and how terrible the NBA is, but they're still trucking along, actually better than usual. Sexual Assault & r*** allegations, and overall just being a bad human being only hurt Kobe Bryant's image for a short time. He's still the most popular player in the NBA.

The opening of the season had the highest TV ratings ever, and the All-Star Game (!) - that novelty weekend that no fan supposedly cares about - had the highest ratings since Jordan. If this is an 'image problem' I wish the NHL could get one of these.

I know you hate ESPN and you hate the NBA (as do I), but if people were sick of them based on their image, you'd think there would be less people paying attention, watching games, buying their merchandise, someone would feel it in the wallet.

Their economic structure, now, there's where all their problems are.

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03-07-2011, 06:23 PM
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NBA had major image issues around 2004. Their image was being tarnished by guys like AI and the Piston/Pacer fight. Ratings were down, attendance was suffering, and to make matters worse the league was still in a hangover following the US Olympic Team’s embarrassing display in Athens. It truly was a golden opportunity for hockey to promote itself as a cleaner game and they simply whiffed on an empty netter by moving to OLN/Vs (a network that still isn't in some hockey markets). Thanks to this strategic blunder, it would be nearly 3-4 years before the Nielsen dials started to move.

If NHL goes back to ESPN next year, ratings will be higher than what they are delivering on Versus. The network just doesn't have the same reach, nor does is it at the top of the average sports consumer's mind.

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03-07-2011, 07:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainHawk View Post
The NBA image is lower than any point that I can remember, driven partly by ESPN's ridiculous coverage of 'the decision'.
TV ratings beg to differ with your statement. ABC ratings are up huge.

Quote:
ABC's NBA Ratings Up 48%, Trending Nearly 25% Above NBC's Final Year in '02

NBA ratings are up nearly 50% on ABC, with Sunday's Lakers/Thunder game just the latest to have a double-digit increase.

Through eight telecasts, ABC is averaging a 3.7 rating and 6.370 million viewers for NBA coverage, up 48% in ratings and 57% in viewership from last year (2.5, 4.066M).

This marks the highest average for the NBA on ABC through February since the network reacquired rights to the league in 2002.

For some perspective, ABC's 3.7 average is 23% higher than the 3.0 NBC averaged through the comparable point of the 2001-02 season, its last covering the league.
NHL on TNT would be great if TNT proposed to copy their NBA format and have a weekly doubleheader complete with the same type of studio coverage imo.

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03-07-2011, 07:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Hockey Suit View Post
NBA had major image issues around 2004. Their image was being tarnished by guys like AI and the Piston/Pacer fight. Ratings were down, attendance was suffering, and to make matters worse the league was still in a hangover following the US Olympic Teamís embarrassing display in Athens. It truly was a golden opportunity for hockey to promote itself as a cleaner game and they simply whiffed on an empty netter by moving to OLN/Vs (a network that still isn't in some hockey markets). Thanks to this strategic blunder, it would be nearly 3-4 years before the Nielsen dials started to move.

If NHL goes back to ESPN next year, ratings will be higher than what they are delivering on Versus. The network just doesn't have the same reach, nor does is it at the top of the average sports consumer's mind.
By 2004 ESPN had the NBA for a couple seasons already. You can't credit ESPN with the "turnaround" when they were there and part of the reasons for the fall IMO. NBA ratings fell off a bit when they first went to ESPN, part of the reasons was going to a heavy broadcast schedule on NBC to a heavy cable schedule on ESPN. Still to this day I'm going to guess if you asked NBA fans what the marquee NBA programming is it will be the games on TNT not ESPN.

With all the programming on ESPN I don't know how the NHL on ESPN2 (it won't be on ESPN proper) would be anything more than filler programming. That isn't going to get a lot of promotion. At best it will end up like mid-week college basketball telecast (and those don't do great). There is only going to be so much they can promote and that is going to go to their big properties (which in comparison the NHL won't be). We already have seen this play out, back when ESPN had the NHL rights and then got the NBA rights. The money went to the NBA and the NHL became filler programming.

And as far as promotion goes NBC-Comcast will be able to promote on about as much outlets as Disney can. Plus they are more likely to as it will be their big property. Plus being on broadcast still carries a lot of symbolic value even more so than being on ESPN does.

If you look at the different leagues/circuts with multiple tv partners they tend to do better on the non-ESPN partner. I believe the NBA in general does. Nascar on Fox does better than Nascar on ABC I believe as well. Part of this is those other outlets can make their telecast a bigger event than ESPN can because of all their programming.

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03-07-2011, 08:07 PM
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Versus and NBC have been good partners for the NHL. On ESPN, the NHL would be just another sport that they telecast, as well as the other 4 major team sports. Hockey would get the short end of that stick every time.

Versus and NBC aren't perfect, but they have been good for the game. I don't see another network combination that could do a better job. The NHL is the big fish in the small pond; on another network, they would be the small fish in the big pond.

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03-07-2011, 08:20 PM
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NHL on TNT would be great if TNT proposed to copy their NBA format and have a weekly doubleheader complete with the same type of studio coverage imo.[/QUOTE]

Now there's a good idea. TNT does a good job with the NBA. A similar concept for the NHL would be great...plus TNT is in many more homes than Vs. Good call.

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03-07-2011, 10:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by go kim johnsson 514 View Post
Googling "December 21, 2012" and having 24 kajillion results about the apocalypse doesn't mean the world is ending on December 21, 2012.

The only thing ESPN did that they did not intend to do was re-cast LeBron as a villain. ESPN is as healthy as it's ever been. People keep saying how despicable "The Decision" was, and how terrible the NBA is, but they're still trucking along, actually better than usual. Sexual Assault & r*** allegations, and overall just being a bad human being only hurt Kobe Bryant's image for a short time. He's still the most popular player in the NBA.

The opening of the season had the highest TV ratings ever, and the All-Star Game (!) - that novelty weekend that no fan supposedly cares about - had the highest ratings since Jordan. If this is an 'image problem' I wish the NHL could get one of these.

I know you hate ESPN and you hate the NBA (as do I), but if people were sick of them based on their image, you'd think there would be less people paying attention, watching games, buying their merchandise, someone would feel it in the wallet.

Their economic structure, now, there's where all their problems are.
They are still way down compared to their late 80s to mid 90s peak. I suspect the recent upswing has a lot more to do with how sports ratings are caculated now compared to 4-5 years ago than anything else.

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03-07-2011, 10:56 PM
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Versus and NBC have been good partners for the NHL. On ESPN, the NHL would be just another sport that they telecast, as well as the other 4 major team sports. Hockey would get the short end of that stick every time.
And what would happen if Versus, say, won the rights to broadcast some MLB games? Some NBA games? A new NFL package were created and they won those rights?

Versus has much loftier goals than where it's at right now and it will pay to reach the next level. Hockey's position as undisputed top dog on the network absolutely has an expiration date... whenever they find something that will do better in the ratings to air.

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03-08-2011, 09:05 AM
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And what would happen if Versus, say, won the rights to broadcast some MLB games? Some NBA games? A new NFL package were created and they won those rights?

Versus has much loftier goals than where it's at right now and it will pay to reach the next level. Hockey's position as undisputed top dog on the network absolutely has an expiration date... whenever they find something that will do better in the ratings to air.
Winning bids on (some of) those packages is exactly what you would want for Versus. If Versus got the NFL Thursday night package, thousands (millions?) of people would be clammoring for Versus to get added to their service packages. Same with MLB. Heck even an MLS contract for the summer would bring in some potential new non-NHL markets (Houston, Seattle, Portland, and Kansas City).

I don't think they'd go after the NBA. But the more "stuff" Versus/NBC adds, the more people will want the channel, and the more exposure it leads to.

Heck if NBC keeps the Olympics, London 2012 will equal Versus 24/7, and that can only be a good thing.

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03-08-2011, 10:52 AM
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http://www.sbnation.com/nhl/2011/3/8...on-espn-versus

SBN looks at the potential suitors, and a possible "bidding war".

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03-08-2011, 05:10 PM
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Earlier musings on this topic from early in the season:

http://hfboards.com/showthread.php?t=826028

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03-08-2011, 08:02 PM
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TNT's sports coverage is excellent. NHL would be dumb to turn down a TV deal with them. I feel they are the best channel in the entire US to have your sports on. They just do such a good job.

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03-08-2011, 08:15 PM
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TNT's sports coverage is excellent. NHL would be dumb to turn down a TV deal with them. I feel they are the best channel in the entire US to have your sports on. They just do such a good job.
I think so too. Imagine if the NBA locked out AND TNT put on a weekly double header of the NHL. But what I'd like best is for two major networks, which could be VS and ESPN or any combination of two big channels would work for me. We need broader exposure and two networks, period.

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03-08-2011, 08:16 PM
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Turner wants the NHL for TruTV, not TNT

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03-08-2011, 08:17 PM
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I think so too. Imagine if the NBA locked out AND TNT put on a weekly double header of the NHL. But what I'd like best is for two major networks, which could be VS and ESPN or any combination of two big channels would work for me. We need broader exposure and two networks, period.
Yeah, there's no reason for them to be stuck on one network like now if they are getting all these bids. TNT has been very willing to do those kind of deals of splitting up the broadcast rights.

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03-09-2011, 12:22 AM
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Do what the NBA does and have two networks. Stick with Versus/NBC since they gave hockey a chance when it hit rock bottom and their coverage has been getting better and better, along with the ratings, but also get some games on ESPN during the week. They'll promote NHL games and give some exposure, because face it, when the casual sports fan needs some sports on TV, he'll turn to ESPN. Plus the NBA locking out is looking like a sure thing and ESPN's gonna need something.

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03-09-2011, 12:42 AM
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Originally Posted by MountainHawk View Post
Googling NBA image problem seems to give a lot more than just hockey fans.
Not to get in the middle of anything or for that matter even act like I know that much about the business side of sports (I love to learn it, long ways to go though), but if I'm not mistaken the NBA's TV numbers have gone way up this season. I believe it was the Miami/NY game 10 days ago that was the highest rated NBA game on cable since MJ was in the league. And that's just one example. So while I definitly don't know much about the image problem the NBA may or may not have in the States I do know the TV numbers don't seem to indicate that.

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03-09-2011, 08:55 AM
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I understand the appeal of ESPN, and don't entirely disagree with the sentiment that the NHL should be involved with them somehow. At least, they shouldn't be in an antagonistic position the way they have been since the lockout, where it's in ESPN's best interest to ignore or demean hockey to the sports-watching public.

That said, I think the NHL is best served being the marquee attraction on a basic-cable station. FX would be the ideal in terms of market niche, but TNT does a great job with its coverage and might represent a more diverse demographic. TruTV doesn't interest me at all.

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03-09-2011, 02:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Definitely Maybe View Post
Do what the NBA does and have two networks. Stick with Versus/NBC since they gave hockey a chance when it hit rock bottom and their coverage has been getting better and better, along with the ratings, but also get some games on ESPN during the week. They'll promote NHL games and give some exposure, because face it, when the casual sports fan needs some sports on TV, he'll turn to ESPN. Plus the NBA locking out is looking like a sure thing and ESPN's gonna need something.
it's highly unlikely you'll ever see NHL hockey ever return to ESPN, IN FACT the NHL Network has done well since being LAUNCHED on both sides of the border which might play a factor too

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