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National Hockey League Embraces TV Placeshifting 169

Posted by Zonk
from the one-of-the-many-reasons-hockey-is-a-better-sport dept.
Egadfly writes "The 'placeshifting' technology that allows digitally recorded shows to be watched in several locations is growing increasingly popular. One particular reason for this popularity is because it enables sports fans to view locally blacked-out games over the Internet. The National Hockey League (NHL) has announced that it will actively support placeshifting by signing an agreement with SlingBox-maker Sling Media. The agreement will allow the company's "Clip+Sling" technologyto share both live and recorded NHL programming over the Internet. Significantly, this has happened only days after Major League Baseball (MLB) launched a public denunciation of placeshifting, accusing SlingBox owners of violating the law by sending television content over the Internet and accusing Sling Media itself of violating contracts with cable and satellite TV companies."
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National Hockey League Embraces TV Placeshifting

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  • by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <taikiNO@SPAMcox.net> on Thursday June 07, 2007 @07:12PM (#19431181)
    Somebody's watching. Unlike MLB, I guess they're getting used to new shifts in tech.

    Plus, given the strike, and the fact that NHL hasn't enjoyed the same American fan-backing other sports have, I'm pretty sure they're just happy someone's watching.
    • The thing about the NHL is that as a business, it's more about ticket-buying butts in the seats than national TV deals. As far as attendance and ticket prices go, by and large the NHL is doing quite well. That's why RIM's Jim Balsillie is ponying up $220 million [blogspot.com] for the Nashville Predators, and there's word that expansion teams may be coming soon to Las Vegas and Kansas City [blogspot.com].

      Most commentators (particularly sports-radio hosts) associate national TV ratings with the overall health of a sports league, and in
  • ... but I still won't be able to see the puck on the screen. Great.
    • by SilentChris (452960) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @07:23PM (#19431293) Homepage
      Back in 1996, FoxTrax [wikipedia.org] came into existence. It used state of the art technology to wrap the puck in a "glow" onscreen (and for kicks Fox added "comet trails" to the puck when it was fired at high speeds).

      You know what? It COMPLETELY SUCKED. You know why? Because ANY IDIOT can see a black object against a bright white surface.

      Not to mention, it was completely invasive. Contrast it with the yellow line shown during football games. Out of the way and easily ignored.

      Hockey's problem in America isn't that Americans can't see the puck. Americans so the puck just fine during the NHL resurgence back in the 90s. Hockey's problem is that Americans won't return to any sport after a lockout unless the players have salaries greater than the GNP of some small nations (baseball).
      • by Knara (9377) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @07:32PM (#19431391)

        Indeed, plus, it's pretty damn easy to *infer* where the puck is from the actions of the players onscreen.

        Though I gotta say, I got an HDTV a few months ago, and hockey in HD is friggin awesome.

        • Though I gotta say, I got an HDTV a few months ago, and hockey in HD is friggin awesome.
          I am so damned jealous. I'm hoping to be able to save up enough to get an HDTV before next year's playoffs.
        • by GiorgioG (225675)
          > Indeed, plus, it's pretty damn easy to *infer* where the puck is from the actions of the players onscreen.

          Having watched hockey since I was 8, this is natural for me. For hockey-n00bs (like my wife), they need to be taught to do this.

      • by drsquare (530038)

        Hockey's problem in America isn't that Americans can't see the puck. Americans so the puck just fine during the NHL resurgence back in the 90s. Hockey's problem is that Americans won't return to any sport after a lockout unless the players have salaries greater than the GNP of some small nations (baseball).

        I'm pretty sure that hockey's problem is that it just isn't that popular in America outside of a few small pockets. The lockout was just the nail in the coffin. Hockey had a brief surge of popularity in t

    • Let me guess: you don't live in Canada? ;)
  • This is probably going to really hurt for the "NHL Center Ice" people who carry the majority of games, which seems to mostly be used by people who moved away from their favorite team's area
    • by ikcizokm (1112877)
      Why? You can only Sling it if it's live on your TV. It's not like you can get games from someone else's Slingbox.

      Personally, I'll stick with my Center Ice pkg and TiVo all the games I want to watch. Or, if it does show up on Xbox Live, use that instead. Sling doesn't appeal to me because you can only watch live programming... no time-delay... just time "shift".
  • NHL on versus (Score:1, Informative)

    by jonpublic (676412)
    They could just put the games on a real network instead of Versus. Half of the Detroit market couldn't see half the playoff games the Wings were in.This works too, I'll be able to actually watch games instead of having to drive to my folks house. This won't help the NHL from continuing to alienate their less technical audience.

    http://sportsbiznews.blogspot.com/2007/05/nhl-spor ts-league-that-sports-fans-cant.html [blogspot.com]
    • I think Versus is probably the exact reason they are accepting placeshifting. The NHL is getting shafted on TV coverage because the only channel you can watch hockey on is Versus. NBC sometimes will play games on weekends if you're lucky. Other than that, it's up to your local sports network. And even they are turning away from hockey. This year's playoff season was probably the worst covered in recent years. I couldn't watch a NJ Devils game in New Jersey unless I had Fox Sports Net 2. Unfortunately
      • whose teams didn't make the playoffs.

        If it weren't for my dish, I couldn't have seen the majority of the games during the season since only 2-5 games were on a week. Once the playoffs rolled around, I got to see them all, again, thanks to my dish.

        And as far as "ratings" go, do they tally me and the people who come over to watch the games? Nope, I don't have their magic box. Now, why is it that Family Guy was canceled again? Oh yeah, low ratings. So few viewers that it set records when it hit DVD and ca
        • by Dragonslicer (991472) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @10:36PM (#19432961)
          One of the reasons I like the playoffs is that I can pick whichever team has players from my college. Since my local team is the Bruins, I don't have to worry about having to cheer for my home team.
          • I just wait for them to blow it IN the playoffs so that my hopes are dashed that much harder. At least your team has the decency to suck up front. Mine strings me along and then commits suicide in new and increasingly heartbreaking ways.
            • by f0rtytw0 (446153)
              Sounds like the Bruins pre-strike. Really good team that couldn't get it done in the first round. I was at their last game before the strike. Oh and then there is the management... they made me not watch hockey this year.
    • by Drathos (1092)
      In my area, Comcast (the owner of Versus) decided to change what channel Versus is on in the middle of the playoffs. I missed a game because I couldn't find it - my on-screen channel guide was still reporting Versus on the old channel.
    • It's the NHL's own fault for settling for less. In 2005, during the lockout, ESPN had the contract option in front of them for broadcasting the 2005-2006 season. They chose not to sign. The NHL probably figured, "Oh well, on to the next best thing", and got suckered into signing with the fourth ranked broadcast network (of four), and a cable provider with an agenda. Comcast shoves the NHL onto OLN, makes sure that only Comcast subscribers can see the games, and somehow thinks that adding just the NHL an
      • The worst commentator on ESPN was one of the guys they had for the NCAA selection show this year (I'm blanking on his name). Here's a few things he said:

        1. New Hampshire was the most vulnerable #1 seed (out of four regionals)
        2. New Hampshire would lose in the first round (to the #4 seed in their regional)
        3. There won't be any upsets in the first round


        I know it was just the tournament selection show for college hockey, but the least they could have done was get a couple guys that weren't on crack.
  • by siwelwerd (869956) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @07:20PM (#19431267)
    I'm betting this is almost entirely due to the terrible ratings the NHL has been getting in the U.S. recently. Game 3 of the finals had a record low for NBC (lower than reruns of their crappy dramas!)
    • by froggero1 (848930) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @07:36PM (#19431427)
      I'm sure this has nothing to do with a team from California being in the finals.

      Any fan of hockey will tell you that there's no way teams like Anahiem, LA, San Jose, Nashville, Florida, and several others that I'm probably missing deserve to be in the league.

      People in those towns don't care (remember how many Flames fans there were in Tampa Bay for that series?), and people around the league don't care about those towns.

      Call me a troll or whatever, but if you're wondering why viewership has gone down in the NHL, the two big reasons are too many crap teams from cities who don't care about hockey, and the instigator rule, which encourages dirty play.

      Again, mod me troll for this, I don't care... many (all?) of my hockey friends will tell you the exact same thing.
      • by attemptedgoalie (634133) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @07:50PM (#19431545)
        Not to bash the southern teams too badly, but they don't fill the buildings, they don't watch the local broadcasts, etc.

        New Jersey can't sell out playoff games, so it's not a uniquely southern issue. If the on-ice product is so boring you have to advertise the competition coming to town, you have a problem.

        The biggest problem with those teams is that they were the markets that were easy to expand to. Which meant more teams with the same number of quality players. So the league is diluted and bums are allowed to skate with future legends. Some of those bums attack other players because they aren't all that great at an NHL level without it. Scott Stevens, I'm looking at you.

        I love what Don Cherry said during Game 4. People who believe that Americans won't watch hockey because it's too violent are crazy. Americans watch football, and ultimate fighting and Nascar. They don't watch them for incredible skills, they watch for the hits. Unlike football, ultimate fighting and Nascar, hockey has hits AND skill. Anybody who believes differently has probably never put on a pair of ice skates.

        One last thing, I have no doubt that one reason that fewer Americans watched was because a Canadian team was in the finals. Everybody I talked to about the games were in two camps. The ones cheering on Anaheim weren't watching the games and just hated Canada. The ones watching each game intently were cheering for Ottawa.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sayfawa (1099071)
          I certainly wouldn't mind seeing a retraction on the number of teams in the NHL. Canada and northern US cities would be fine with me. I guess the probelem is the owners would mind. They just want more and more and bigger and bigger, and that means the American market.

          Everything's got to be huge, on huge primetime TVs and in huge stadiums in huge cities for them. And for some stupid reason they think that a city with a population of 500,000 where 1% care about hockey is a better market than a city with 100
          • by jocknerd (29758)
            Thats because its all about TV market. Thats why hockey pulled out of the small cities who were passionate about their hockey and went to the big cities in the south where hockey was nothing more than a curiosity.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Night Goat (18437)
          Right on. The way to hook new viewers is "Hook them with the hits, keep them with the skill." Once people begin watching hockey, they'll pick up on the intricacies of the game. I'm still amazed at the little techniques that players use to affect how a play develops. Little things like deflecting a puck a little bit, slowing down the opposing team, stuff like that. It's ridiculous that more Americans aren't into hockey. It's so much more interesting to me than football.
        • by kaufmanmoore (930593) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @10:02PM (#19432721)
          What do you mean the Southern teams don't fill the buildings, the bottom 6 in attendance this year were
          25 Boston
          26 New Jersey
          27 Washington
          28 NY Islanders
          29 Chicago
          30 St. Louis

          Tampa Bay was #3 with an average of 19,876. Hockey just doesn't televise well in standard def, its not because of not being able to see the puck, its because you can't see the play develop and the action off the puck
          • by Mal-2 (675116)
            > Hockey just doesn't televise well in standard def, its not because of not being able to see the puck, its because you can't see the play develop and the action off the puck.

            Damn straight! When actually at games, I find I am not looking the same place the main camera is (or would be) a good portion of the time. I'm not watching the forward on the breakaway when he's still at the blue line -- I'm watching the goalie. I'm not watching the scrum along the boards, I'm watching the guys setting up camp in fr
          • I'm surprised Boston and Washington aren't even lower. Boston has a couple promising young guys (Bergeron and Kessell), and Sinden isn't in charge of destroying the team anymore.
          • I just go by what I see when I watch the games on Center Ice.

            I'm sure my northern bias is in play when I watch the game and yell "Look at all those empty seats! Stupid hockey in the south!"

            And I bought my HDTV for hockey. If you can't be at a game to watch the play develop, HD is the next best thing. Standard definition games are fine when the Canadians are running the cameras. They generally pull far enough back that you can see the play develop. But the jackasses at the game in the front few rows kno
        • Americans watch football, and ultimate fighting and Nascar. They don't watch them for incredible skills, they watch for the hits. Unlike football, ultimate fighting and Nascar, hockey has hits AND skill.

          I disagree. First, football has plenty of skill, hence there are players who play "skill positions." The NFL has become more popular as the rules have changed to emphasize offensive skills (eg protect the QB).

          The problem IMHO is that hockey has lost much of it's skill. It was popular in the 80's, early 9

        • by crotherm (160925)

          Not to bash the southern teams too badly, but they don't fill the buildings, they don't watch the local broadcasts, etc.

          Not to bash you too badly, but you don't know WTF you are talking about. LA and Anaheim have great fans. LA had 91.1% and Anaheim had 95.5%

          One last thing, I have no doubt that one reason that fewer Americans watched was because a Canadian team was in the finals. Everybody I talked to about the games were in two camps. The ones cheering on Anaheim weren't watching the games and just hated Canada. The ones watching each game intently were cheering for Ottawa.

          Again, WTF.... I watched every game I could. Damn NHL started games while I was at work. And I loved it that the Ducks beat the crap out of that weak arsed Ottawa team. It was like they should not even have been there. The Detroit series was much more compelling.

          Lets see, the last three Cup winners are all from southern regions. The last three second place team

      • by quacking duck (607555) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @08:08PM (#19431697)
        Damn straight! I'm sick of the NHL pandering to American interests, when probably 98% of their population don't give two craps about Canada's popular sport.

        They scheduled several Saturday playoff games at 2 in the afternoon, killing CBC's nighttime ratings twice (they lost all their night viewers, and even most Canadian hockey fans would prefer to be out on a warm and sunny afternoon after months of chilly weather). And why 2pm? Because of NBC, probably because they already had Saturday night commitments. In Game 5 of the Eastern finals, the game went into overtime. NBC ended their broadcast after the 3rd period, and so didn't air the goal that eliminated Buffalo and sent the Ottawa Senators to their first Stanley Cup series since they were resurrected as a team in 1992. That's the commitment the NHL gets from NBC.

        Don Cherry called it a few nights ago, when he was guest commentator on the NBC broadcast. He lambasted Americans trying to turn NHL hockey into "family" sport. That the fighting made it a less "serious" sport. He rightfully pointed out the hypocrisy in this as parents let their kids watch UFC and take them to WWE matches. He made pointed reference to NASCAR too, though I didn't understand the connection.

        Now, I'm not saying fights in hockey are exactly a GOOD thing, nor am I saying UFC and WWE (expecially WWE) are taken seriously either. But it's clear that violence in the latter sells a hell of a lot more than a fast-paced hockey game in the US. The NHL should never have expanded south as much as it did--it drove up player salaries and other costs until communities that actually cared about the game saw their home teams move to where they're not appreciated.

        Yes, I'm bitter we lost the Stanley Cup--yet again--to a US team, in another city where a mere kilometre away from the arena passers-by didn't even know the final game of the championship was being played out.

        And in relation to this rant, I just realized the absolute irony of my Slashdot ID.
        • Like hockey, NASCAR is a sport which is not supposed to include violence. But a NASCAR race that went perfectly smoothly would just be cars going around a large oval track really fast somewhere between 100 and 500 times (with the occasional pit stop), and after a while that could get stultifying for a viewer. It gets most interesting right when car-related violence happens.
          There are no rules against violence in NASCAR: it's just presumed that self-preservation and trying to win the race would discourage
        • It's not the American fans that are hurting the sport. It's the greed of the owners and Darth Bettman. The owners snatched up franchises and expansion rights for a song, got sweetheart arena leases, then wondered why they weren't raking in dough. Hockey is not a 30 franchise sport, especially when at least 8 of those franchises are in cities that can't, or won't support the team. So the owners scrambled for a easy market; Families. The owner want the new rules, they want something to market to families. Dea
          • The idiots in charge want to add a Las Vegas NHL team [aol.com].

            Vegas and pro hockey. Yeah, there's a winning combination. Apparently a big reason for lack of any pro sports teams [wikipedia.org] is a conflict of interest with sports gambling, obviously allowed in Vegas. The last thing the NHL needs to get itself into is a scandal... OTOH, these days, what better way to make people take an organization seriously...
            • Fortunately, the league has already had it's gambling scandal [wikipedia.org].
            • It has little to do with sports gambling, though that's a concern.

              If you're coming to Vegas, the Casinos want you gambling. Period. They could give a rats ass about anything else. Everything is geared around getting you in the door. Any pro sports team that comes to Vegas will want a sweetheart arena deal. The biggest money in town is in the Casino business, and they're damn sure not going to build an arena for something that doesn't put gamblers directly into their casinos. Period.
          • get the cup back to Detroit

            The Wings made a good run this year, yet even they didn't sell out playoff games, and this is a team that had sold out ever game (regular season AND playoffs) since December of '96. Possible causes? Detroit fans are spoiled, the Wings have the longest playoff streak of any pro team. Fans are tired of seeing them play the same teams over and over again. The Pistons and (especially) the Tigers are also doing well as of late, and tickets for those teams are significantly cheaper
        • by crotherm (160925)

          Yes, I'm bitter we lost the Stanley Cup--yet again--to a US team, in another city where a mere kilometre away from the arena passers-by didn't even know the final game of the championship was being played out.
          You'd be very surprised by how much SoCal is into hockey. It really started back when the Great One came here. Lots of kids leagues all over SoCal.
      • by dodongo (412749)
        Well, number one, I hate fucking Anaheim, but they did just win the Cup, so I question your "They don't belong in the league" assertion. That and they're in the second-largest media market in the country. Give them time.

        Second, I live in the Bay Area, the 4th largest media market in the country. The Shark Tank (AKA HP Pavillion, the, I hate to admit it, most brilliant corporate name for a stadium ever) sells out consistently, and though it's not as large as lots of places... There's a bunch of us that l
        • by TopShelf (92521)
          What most people don't realize is that national TV deals in the US have never been a big driver for the NHL as a business. It's all about selling tickets to games, and you can do that with minimal fan interest in a huge city like L.A., or hockey-crazy interest in smaller cities like Buffalo. The NHL is more about 30 local markets and the Canadian TV package. Anything they can get from US national coverage is a bonus.
      • San Jose

        Have you paid attention to how well these teams you listed are actually doing, or are you just grouping the Sharks in there because it's a California city you've never heard of? San Jose (along with Dallas) has become one of the more successful areas the NHL expanded to in the 1990s, both business and support wise. The city of San Jose along with the rest of the Bay Area has practically embraced the team, especially since they moved to the Sharks Tank 14 years ago, and HP Pavillion is regularly a
      • I think that NHL teams should have the first 3 draft choices in a geographical area close to their home city. Yes it would create "powerhouse" teams, but only in those areas where people are interested in hockey. The NHL's interest in expanding in areas where no matter what people couldn't care less for hockey is becoming quite damaging in areas where people used to be fanatics of the sport. It kills the local pride, and interest. Eventually the interest will dim down even where it used to be a passion,
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rbochan (827946)
      I'd imagine NBC's _godawful_ audio has something to do with that too. One of the biggest media companies on the planet, and their audio guys can't even stop the pumping and breathing from the compressor/limiters. It's pathetic. Boys, that threshold setting is there for a reason!
      And besides the shitty audio, if a game doesn't finish within regulation, NBC's bound to cut to a rerun of Friends or some shit.

    • You're right, the ratings are bad for hockey (in the US anyway), and licensing deals with YouTube, and this recent placeshifting move, aren't going to bring back the viewers either. But I know what will: dropping the stupid instigator rule they put in place some years back to curb fighting. Even NHL GM's are realising the penalty should be abolished because it makes it impossible for enforcers to protect star players, and it robs the game of strategy and excitement.

      Let's face it, hockey fights rule, and it'
  • by cavtroop (859432) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @07:21PM (#19431275)
    ...that content creators make is EASIER for me to watch the content that they create. This can only mean more viewers, watching more of the content they create, which is a good thing all around.

    Unlike MLB, which wants you to only watch their content on their terms. Screw that!
  • I'd probably buy an NHL season pass via Xbox Live if if the content was HD and at least price-competitive with an NHL cable subscription.

    Or, I'd be motivated to buy an AppleTV. I think most iTunes tv content isn't HD yet.

    I'm not so sure about buying a Slingbox. ... then again my nerdy coworker just showed me a Slingbox session streaming through his Treo phone and now i kind of want one.
    • Screw the Xbox and double screw AppleTV, I'm watching a NHL game on Joost right now for free at a surprisingly high level of quality. Sure it's a recorded game from, but at least I can watch all them in order when ever I want on demand. It'll be interesting too see if Joost takes off as big as Skype(same guys, same idea, but with TV) and how much "Live" content, or at least recent content they'll have.
  • Preakness (Score:5, Interesting)

    by windside (112784) <pmjboyleNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday June 07, 2007 @07:52PM (#19431565)
    As a hockey fan, it pains me to say this, but the people suggesting this is a desperation move by a league struggling to stay relevant in the USA are absolutely right. Low ratings for game 3 on NBC are one thing, but the real icing on the cake was when NBC pre-empted overtime during the Sabres-Senators series to show a pre-game show for Preakness. In Canada, this caused a minor outrage, but it didn't really matter since CBC showed the whole glorious game. In fact, I doubt many people up here know what "Preakness" means. Sounds like a soft drink or something. Any NHL fan can tell you the sport is floundering stateside: During the first-round series between Calgary and Detroit, it was damn near impossible to get tickets to watch the (utterly horrific) Flames on home ice. Meanwhile, some friends of mine traveled to Detroit and snapped up tickets on game day! And they were cheap! And they were great seats! And the Wings were playing about 100x better than the Flames. Finally, and slightly more on-topic, at the beginning of the playoffs, CBC announced that they would be doing on-demand streaming for all broadcasts of Hockey Night in Canada. At the end of the day, the league is pulling out all the stops trying to convince US audiences they should care about hockey. The Placeshifting issue is just one example of that. It won't work. Maybe they should convince NBC to fire Brett Hull, then people would be able to stomach the NBC telecasts? No, probably not. Sigh.
    • In fact, I doubt many people up here know what "Preakness" means. Sounds like a soft drink or something.

      It always reminded me of the cookies [kraftfoods.com]
    • The Preakness is a horse race, the middle third of the Triple Crown (the first is the Kentucky Derby).
      I agree that NBC should not have pre-empted the end of a hockey game for the Preakness "pre-game." I disapprove of hours of "pre-game" for a three-minute race.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Gman14msu (993012)
      I don't know if desperation move is exactly the thing to call this. I think it's more being innovative and taking steps to embrace technology to help move the sport forward. The league knows it needs to change its ways or basically die and being the first league to really embrace technology could help it survive. It's not the most pressing issue but it will help. The league really needs to contract a few teams, and restructure the style of play to the way it once was. Open up the ice, eliminate the tra
  • Check out Joost (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Charcharodon (611187) on Thursday June 07, 2007 @07:59PM (#19431627)
    Just picked up an invite for Joost, guess it from the same guys that made Skype. It works very well, you can even watch all the NHL play off games to stay on topic.

    It'll be entertaining to see when this takes off (It's not a matter of if, the beta is that good.) how loud the networks start screaming when these guys not only eat their lunch, but drink all their beer too.

    • by jbarr (2233)
      Joost is a cool concept, but unfortunately, it never worked well on my wireless laptop because Joost pumped out the video at way too high a bitrate causing jerky, choppy video. I requested of Joost support that they let the user specify the bitratebut I received no response. Interestingly, my SageTV's PlaceShifter app plays full-screen video without issue--because I can specify the bitrate....
      • I don't know about it being jerky, it's been smooth as butter for me. I can see there being a problem for some devices, older equipment or small portables. It would be very smart of the to come up with a bittrate setting, but I'm not sure if they'd be able to do that without having to have multiple streams of the same content out there.
  • that some people get it, and some people don't, and the degree to which you "get it" depends upon how happy you are with the status-quo.
  • I'm glad to see it. A few years back the NHL started introducing "special effects" like creating a sort of "halo" around the puck to easily spot it behind the boards or the red trail when the puck broke a certain speed. I suppose if they didn't change with the times they'd still play without helmets and have chain-link instead of Plexiglas...
  • Not a bad move (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darth_brooks (180756) <clipper377@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday June 07, 2007 @09:48PM (#19432589) Homepage
    The NHL has never, ever had great ratings on national television. Part of this is indeed a lack of interest. The NHL will never have the interest of any of the other three major sports, and somebody's got to be fourth. But the other major problem is quality hockey in quality markets. Ottawa and Anaheim in this year's finals, Carolina and Edmonton in last years. Why did the ratings suck? because if you add up the populations of those four (Anaheim proper, excluding LA) cities, you're probably not much bigger than Chicago. They could have drawn a 30 share in the American team's city and not made a dent nationally. It's the nature of the sport. Hell, NBC national games featuring Detroit and Buffalo (cradles of US hockey) performed poorly on a national level, but drew Super Bowl-level interest locally. For the NHL to make a dent in national TV ratings, they need a New York Rangers - Los Angeles Kings final every year. (I'd say an Islanders - Kings final, but who are we kidding? I'll sniff a super model's panties before the Isle's sniff a Stanley Cup Finals game.)

    FYI NBC does not pay the NHL for rights to broadcast games nationally. Even if hockey draws poorly, it's essentially free to the network. NBC is well aware of how Hockey draws in the US, but knows that they will always make money on any game they show. Some of their Saturday games this year did outdraw the competing NBA games.

    As for the deal with slingbox, it's not really desperation. The NHL just landed a fat deal to stay on CBC in Canada (THANK GOD) that dwarfs any of the money Poker and UFC are getting. This on top of the waaaaaaaaay overpriced deal that Comcast (owners of Versus) coughed up in an attempt to legitimize their network (and to give a middle finger to ESPN). Being the red headed stepchild of pro-sports gives Hockey a chance to reach out. Hockey needs to keep it's ratings where they are. They can't afford to alienate even a small percentage of their remaining fan base and if they can find an edge, any edge, to pull an extra 50 or 100k pairs of eyes, they'll do it. Maybe enough folks will latch on to the idea to make the big sports change their tune.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 07, 2007 @10:42PM (#19433005)
    From the CBC [www.cbc.ca]:

    Ratings on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada were about the same as last year's Edmonton-Carolina tilt through the first four games of the final, but down 16 per cent from Calgary-Tampa Bay in 2004.

    A poll by Decima Research before the Anaheim-Ottawa series suggested 24 per cent of Canadians felt Toronto is Canada's representative hockey team, compared to 22 per cent for Montreal and just 15 per cent for the Senators.

    Yet with the Senators facing elimination, not a single federal MP bothered to offer a statement of support Wednesday in the House of Commons.

    Still, Canada's hockey fervour simply eclipses support in the far larger American market.

    NBC recorded the network's lowest-ever rating for a prime time program when it broadcast Game 3 from Ottawa on Saturday night. In a market 10 times larger, NBC got less than half the 2.6 million viewers who watched the game in Canada.

    Even in Anaheim's Orange County home, things aren't exactly ducky.

    Only a small percentage of southern Californians follow hockey, not surprising given the many competing pro sports and a climate fit for bikinis rather than balaclavas.

    Those who support the Ducks are keen - the team sold out its last 34 home games, including Wednesday night - but the interest is not widespread.

    When a restaurant on the Pacific Ocean 20 kilometres to the west of the Honda Center set out a sidewalk sign announcing Monday's game from Ottawa would be shown on a widescreen TV, the few folks on hand paid little attention to the action. Staff wouldn't turn off the music so the play-by-play audio could be heard.

    That would be incomprehensible on Ottawa's Sens Mile, some 30 kilometres east of Scotiabank Place.

    Most bars along the Elgin Street strip were full by 5:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, almost three hours before game time, and after the puck dropped in Anaheim the only sounds on the street were the muffled play-by-play of CBC's Bob Cole and roaring fan reaction - both inside and out.

    Lineups at the bigger establishments remained three deep on the sidewalk as fans watched the game through open windows.
  • This is a great move by the NHL. This won't cause the Center Ice package to lose money, since you can't actually watch the sling + clip clips live.
    I have a HD-DVR cable box, so i can control my dvr and cable box all from my slingbox. Being on the road 4 out of 5 days a week, slingbox has been a lifesaver. And being a fan of the NHL, i can actually enjoy my center ice package using the slingbox.

    NHL players have also embraced this technology. The NJ Devils were given Slingboxes as a Christmas present. I
  • by tknn (675865)
    Chicago used to be a big hockey town before they started blacking out games if they weren't sold out. Guess what? A whole generation basically never watched the games on TV and now they have no fans. Not that I really care about hockey.
    • by pete6677 (681676)
      I'll never understand the so-called business strategy of Dollar Bill Wirtz (Blackhawks owner). How does running a once-great team into the ground make any sense at all? He loses money on the team, refuses to improve it, and refuses to sell. Once his pickled liver finally gives out on him, somebody will have a hell of a lot of rebuilding to do on this team. The sad thing is, they couldn't get the games on TV now even if they wanted to. They'd have to pay the networks to carry them due to hockey's exceptional
  • by GoatVomit (885506) on Friday June 08, 2007 @12:29AM (#19433695)
    1. A team south of the Mason-Dixon line doesn't deserve to win the cup according to some canadians albeit the team probably has more canadian players than the opponent.
    2. Garry Bettman is evil and only panders to US needs.
    3. Winnipeg and Quebec deserve their teams back.
    4. Don Cherry is fair and balanced in his views especially when it comes to european players.
    5. If your team loses there must be something wrong with the referees (universal)
    6. If you're seeing a blackhawks homegame on tv in Chicago you're on drugs.
    7. If the other stanley cup finalist has an european captain they will lose.
    8. If you don't speak french and play for the Canadiens you're shit out of luck when it comes to the media. Mon dieu.
    9. Russians stop playing after they get a big contract.
    10. Pronger debunks newtonian physics and comes up with his own. Don Cherry praises him for it since he's a good canadian boy with a heart of gold.

    There's probably even more which I forgot as usual but in general when hockey fans start arguing about the sports logic is the 1st casualty and truth the 2nd but it's like that with most sports. Slingbox deal is a step in the right direction but what I'd really like them to come up with is a streaming service where one could just watch the games you want for a modest fee but I really doubt this will happen anytime soon.
    • by li99sh79 (678891)
      >7. If the other stanley cup finalist has an european captain they will lose.
      That's, in part, why I wanted to see Detroit play Ottawa in the Finals this year. Two teams with Euro!Captains, how could they both lose?
      • by max99ted (192208)
        Detroit - Ottawa would have been a great series!!! We could also throw in:

        7a. If the year ends in a 7, either Detroit or a Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately the Ducks ruined that streak :)

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