Monday, January 29, 2007

Versus Until 2011

The Comcast owned Versus television station has bought the rights to the NHL until 2011. They have exercized an option for the 2007/08 year and bought the rights to the next three seasons after than.

Versus is hockey oblivion in the United States. Some people do not get this channel. Others that do get it don't know that they do or what channel it is. It is certainly not as high profile as ESPN. But it was possibly the only option when ESPN didn't want it. ESPN still doesn't really want it when they can get ratings showing poker in its place (since when has poker been a sport?). ESPN might be willing to take it back as long as it can be used as cheap filler material, but they won't actually promote the NHL or anything. The American NHL TV rights post lockout went to OLN who was eventually rebranded to become Versus. It was a network that never seriously expected to win the TV rights in the first place, but when it did, they did an admirable job of eventually putting together a decent show.

The problem is its still a channel that many people don't notice. It hides hockey from the American fan. It leads to the many stupid articles we see about how hockey is dead. This is shown by the fact that All Star Game ratings dropped by 76% since 2004 and yet are a peak in the Versus ratings. The NHL is in hockey oblivion on American TV's and nobody cares if it comes back. They have little choice but to stay there and hope their location gets on the radar screens.

For the fan, does it matter? Not really. If you know where Versus is on your TV, then you know where to find games. Who cares how many other people are watching? Does it make your viewing more enjoyable to know that lots of people are watching the same thing in their homes? I don't see how. It would be nice if Versus showed more games. It would be nice to have Versus games on weekends, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards.

Here is an article about the new Versus deal courtesy of Kukla's Korner.

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