Thursday, October 20, 2005

OLN Problems

The national US TV deal was won by Comcast who is showing NHL games on OLN. This was supposed to be an important step forward, but as OLN is trying to position themselves as a new major sports network, there were expected to be some growing pains. The growing pains so far have been worse than expected.

Probably the most important growing pain is in the New York market. This is an important market to the NHL because it is the most populous one in the United States.

Comcast wants to position OLN as a major sports channel. Comcast wants to be shown on the basic tier on the different cable systems. At the same time, Comcast wants a larger fee from cable companies that show their "new" OLN network. In New York, Cablevision shows OLN on a sports tier that is additional to its basic package. Comcast is unhappy with this. As long as OLN is not in the basic tier, they are not permitting Cablevision to show their NHL hockey games. Since OLN has exclusive rights to the games that they show, no Cablevision subscribers in the New York market can see these games at all. The NHL (meaning Gary Bettman's office) appears to be onboard with Comcast. Comcast owns the Philadelphia Flyers and Cablevision owns the New York Rangers. Therefore, all should be trying to see the NHL succeed. One important part to NHL success is the national TV package -- right?

The NHL owners are fighting amongst themselves and doing things that are bad for the NHL as a whole (although may benefit their other business interests). This shows the NHL's problems. Many of their owners have little interest in hockey - aside from the money it produces. Obviously, better hockey decisions will be made by people who actually care about hockey.

It also shows how divided the NHL owners are. And these were the same owners who "stood together" to win the lockout? If anything it shows just how badly divided the NHLPA is since they bowed to almost every demand of this divided group.

Hockeybird has a good article on the New York situation.

New York is not the only market where fans are not getting a chance to see OLN. Echo Star Communications who run the Dish Network (satellite TV) has announced that they will no longer carry OLN. This is reported by Kukla's Korner.

The main idea of getting the NHL on OLN was to have national exposure. If it turns out they don't get it on OLN then this TV deal is a mistake. ESPN would likely be better for less money because at least it would get shown nationally.

Comments:
Interesting battle. Despite this, I don't believe that the NHL was better off on ESPN. They started out great but then regulated the NHL to the backburner and weren't hyping the games as often. Comcast, while new, has put their best foot forward in terms of importance. That's what the NHL was really looking for. A few growing pains now, but in a few years a broader coverage. In essence, a partnership. There's that word again. Nice Blog.
 
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