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Monday, July 20, 2009

Hockey on ESPN again?

The NHL just struck a deal with NBC on a two year agreement for rights to televise games. Some are viewing this a some sort of power play so that both the NBC and Versus contracts come due at the same time. This would give them the ability to shop them back to ESPN/ABC. Perhaps that assumption is correct but as a hockey fan, I smell a rat.

I was one of the biggest proponents of keeping hockey on ESPN back before the lock up if not merely for the ability to watch a multitude of games. However, after seeing the job VS and NBC have done for the NHL, I'm not as convinced. I'm not arguing the fact that ESPN reaches a larger audience of sports fans. The case that I am making is the prioritizing of sports coverage that ESPN makes. If hockey was to go back on the network, it would play second fiddle to college baseball, professional poker, and women's basketball. That is not what the NHL needs in it's grand marketing scheme.

I, for one, would like to see more hockey on VS and NBC. Rather than pre-empt weeknight programming, NBC could take the day time weekend games and VS. could show the games during the week. From a marketing standpoint, there should be a lobby to get VS. on all the major cable providers so that there aren't major cities going without. I just don't want to see the sport I love mismanaged to the point of a footnote on the back page of the sports section. I'm not even opposed to shopping broadcasts to FOX (as long as they don't bring back the "Glow Puck".)

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