NHL done deal - Page 13 - AVS Forum
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post #361 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 11:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fredfa
It took a sport with minimal national interest and made sure people can't find it easily on their TV sets.
How is this much different than when NBA games first started showing up on TNT or NASCAR on FX? I never watched TNT before the NBA and still don't watch FX, but somehow I was / am able to find the games / races. I'm betting that the NHL fans are resourceful enough to find OLN.

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post #362 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 11:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beaudot
Anyone else think it is crazy that they picked Monday as one of its two nights, considering they'll be against MNF for almost half the season.
I don't know. I've never watched MNF, so it's a non-issue for me. I'm not sure how much the NHL and NFL demographics overlap.

edit:

Quote:
Originally Posted by kaa1954
Almost all hockey fans are football fans(except in Canada)....the opposite is not true which makes this choice of nights almost asinine.
Oh, well there you go. That's what I get for thinking too long before posting :)

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post #363 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 11:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beaudot
Anyone else think it is crazy that they picked Monday as one of its two nights, considering they'll be against MNF for almost half the season.
It will be interesting to see OLN's ratings for the two nights. It wouldn't surprise me if they get hammered on Monday as we all suspect that they'd move it to some other night. Unless of course the Bass-fishing Series is on Wednesday or Thursday nights.
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post #364 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by cntr_ice_junkie
Unless of course the Bass-fishing Series is on Wednesday or Thursday nights.
Good one. :D
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post #365 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 11:40 AM
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The local FoxSportsNet contracts are negotiated locally with each team. This contract only deals with nationally broadcast games and will have no impact on the local FoxSportsNet game.
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post #366 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 01:02 PM
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Jeez...

I have been anxiously waiting for this locout to be over so I can watch HD hockey. Now ESPN bails, and OLN has no HD broadcast. I am a Dish Network subscriber, and Comcast is not the cable provider where I live (Charter Cable area). Does this mean that I can't watch any HD hockey this season (until NBC broadcasts the Cup Finals in stunning "macro-blocking-vision" - if they even show it in HD)? I don't get InHD1 or InHD2 via dish - only HDNet...

I am seriously disappointed.
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post #367 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 01:18 PM
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By Anne Becker Broadcasting & Cable

After beating out ESPN for TV rights to National Hockey League games, Comcast's OLN channel will be seeking higher license fees from cable and DBS operators when the many of the tiny network's carriage deals come up for renewal at the end of the year.

“There’s no question that we believe we’re going to be expanding the number of homes [OLN is] available in, and I think when you add something like the NHL it’s fair to assume your affiliate fee will go up,†said Comcast COO Steve Burke, although he declined to specify the percentage of deals that will expire or how much Comcast will seek to increase subscription rates during carriage renewals.

Under a deal finalized Tuesday, OLN agreed to pay some $65 million to telecast hockey’s upcoming season.
It will run the first of the 58 regular-season games on Oct. 5 and run exclusive national games each Monday and Tuesday during the season, including some planned double-headers.

The games will be followed by a wrap-up show, and OLN will seek to use other outlets including VOD and broadband to make game highlights widely available.

OLN president Gavin Harvey called the NHL a “monumental acquisition†and a new “cornerstone franchise†for the network. OLN will also offer as many games as possible in HD.

That could help appease fans already disgruntled by hockey’s strike who now have to seek out the sport through a new cable venue. It might also help account for a potential lessening of NHL coverage on ESPN, which devoted five nights a week to hockey wrap-up show NHL Tonight during hockey season when it aired the sport.

It is yet to be determined just how much coverage the sport will now get on mega-sports network ESPN, which passed the option to match Comcast’s offer for the low-rated league.

OLN's reach is far less than mighty ESPN or sibling ESPN2. For the summer to date, OLN averaged just 225,000 total viewers in prime time.

ESPN, by contrast, average 1.25 million and ESPN2, 581,000 total viewers. OLN is also only available in 64 million homes (vs. ESPN's 90 million) and 10% of OLN's systems offer it only on a digital tier to a portion of its customers.

That has not affected interest from advertisers, contends NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

“If you look out a couple of years looking back this will hopefully be a pivotal moment in the growth of OLN,†he said.

OLN, best known for its coverage of the Tour de France, has been stockpiling bigger acquisitions in recent months, looking to branch out beyond its core audience of hardcore outdoor sports enthusiasts especially now that fan favorite Lance Armstrong just competed in his final tour.

On the final day of the tour last month, the network premiered repeats of Survivor, ten iterations of which it recently snagged from King World for some $10 million.

OLN will use hockey to promote its USSA skiing and snowboarding franchises, looking to compete with other cable sports networks for male viewers.

“There are sports that are available all over cable television, and that’s what we consider our competitive set,†Harvey said. “We have been focused on being a network that is an exciting and dynamic destination for men who are into competition of all types,†Harvey said.â€

Sources said Comcast offered to pay $65 million the first year, $70 million the second year, and an option for a third year at $72.5 million. ESPN's previous deal was $60 million annually. As part of the deal, Comcast is now committed to starting up and carrying a 24/7 NHL cable channel, which it expects to have up on a digital tier within two years.
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post #368 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 01:28 PM
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Comcast Eyes Higher Affiliate Fees After OLN Acquires NHL Rights

By Jon Lafayette TVWeek.com

Comcast expects its subscribers and other cable operators to help it pay for its new investment in hockey programming.

Comcast secured the rights to broadcast hockey on its OLN channel after ESPN declined Wednesday night to match Comcast's offer.

In a conference call Thursday morning Comcast Chief Operating Officer Steve Burke said that a number of OLN's affiliate deals are expiring at the end of the year. "It's fair to assume [with the NHL added to the network's programming] your affiliate fees will go up," he said, also adding that he expects to expand the number of homes in which OLN is available.

The Comcast package calls for the league to receive $135 million over two seasons for rights to televise games on OLN. OLN and Comcast have an option for a third year at $72.5 million. The league will get another $15 million if OLN's distribution exceeds 80 million subscribers. OLN has 64 million subscribers, compared with ESNP2's 89 million.

Comcast also guaranteed distribution of an NHL network, which will be carried on a digital sports tier. Comcast will pay the league $15 million if certain subscriber levels are not reached. The NHL network's programming will include live game broadcasts.

OLN plans to televise hockey games on Mondays and Tuesdays. The league will aim to make Monday's game exclusive, with no games other than the one televised by OLN on the schedule that evening.

Comcast also obtained rights to use NHL programming via broadband, online and on VOD. Some game broadcasts will be streamed, the league said.

ESPN decided in May not to exercise an option to pay $60 million for NHL rights. "We worked very hard to build and sustain our relationship with the league and would have liked to continue. However, given the prolonged work stoppage and the league's TV ratings history, no financial model even remotely supports the contract terms offered," said George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports.

Comcast executives downplayed speculation that they plan to build OLN into a sports network competitor to ESPN. Next on Comcast's sports wish list might be a package of late-season NFL games that may come on the market later this year.
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post #369 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 01:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fredfa
The league will aim to make Monday's game exclusive, with no games other than the one televised by OLN on the schedule that evening.
Hasn't the schedule already been released [link]? Are they talking about 2006-07?

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post #370 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 01:50 PM
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One would assume they must be talking about 2006-2007, unless they plan to pull the RSN games on Mondays.

But the RSNs would presumably not be happy about that at all. And neither would the fans of the local teams whose games were blacked out.
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post #371 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 01:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fredfa
One would assume they must be talking about 2006-2007, unless they plan to pull the RSN games on Mondays.

But the RSNs would presumably not be happy about that at all. And neither would the fans of the local teams whose games were blacked out.
And neither will CI subsribers! Even if the exclusitivity does not apply to CI, there won't be any RSN feeds available anyway.
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post #372 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 02:00 PM
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The first game broadcast by Comcast will be October 5th - Rangers-Flyers. Probably in HD since Comcast owns an HD truck that is based in Philly.
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post #373 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 02:20 PM
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In HD for whom? If I am getting OLN via D*, it surely won't be in HD for me!

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post #374 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 02:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blitzen102
The first game broadcast by Comcast will be October 5th - Rangers-Flyers. Probably in HD since Comcast owns an HD truck that is based in Philly.
I still don't understand - how would they provide this game in HD? Would it be a Comcast-only PPV-like event? Would it actually be on the OLN channel in HD? Is there a seperate OLN-HD channel?

Thanks
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post #375 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 02:44 PM
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InHD should do the trick. For those who can get it.
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post #376 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 02:51 PM
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I would expect that the NHL games in HD will be shown on INHD or on a CSN-HD channel like in Philly, DC and Chicago. Also, I think that this is just the first step and is part of Comcast's plan to build a national sports network to compete with ESPN. The NHL is a test that the other leagues will watch very closely. Do not be surprised to see a deal announced with the NFL for a Thursday Night package for at least half of the NFL season maybe in 2006 or 2007. Comcast tried to purchase Disney to get their hands on ESPN so I fully expect Comcast to go really stong after more sports for OLN. I also expect them to be innovative in how they present the games on TV. Note that two games will be streamed on the web as an example. The NHL is just the beginning.
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post #377 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 03:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beaudot
Agreed Dave, I don't understand Fred's very passionate displeasure on this subject?

Anyone else think it is crazy that they picked Monday as one of its two nights, considering they'll be against MNF for almost half the season.
Not really, since beginning next year, MNF will be on ESPN.
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post #378 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 04:07 PM
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I don't have a passionate displeasure.
I just think it is a stupid and short sighted move on the NHL's part.
As an invaluable promotional platform, it loses the several million people who tune in to the various SportsCenters each night. They are fans of football, baseball, basketball, and other sports.
If shown interesting stories and highlights from the NHL, they might tune in to the games (especially when ESPN promotes them incessantly.)
The viewership on OLN is infinitesimal campared to ESPN -- and unless something dramatic changes, the hockey ratings aren't going to go up all that much.
An 0.2 on ESPN is not suddenly going to morph into an 0.5 on OLN, especially when the casual sports fan is not going to be as virtually assaulted by promos on networks he/she tunes in to for sports coverage.
Sure the Comcast RSNs will hype OLN, but all those Fox-controlled RSNs and all the ESPNs won't help at all. In fact it will be in their interest to do everything they can to [b}not[/b] hype any Comcast games.
Nonetheless, I hope it works for the NHL.
But it clearly will work for Comcast.
With OLN's contracts running out, if they can just get a nickel a month more per sub, they'll clear $38.4 million extra a year for their 64 million subs. A dime a sub increase would more than pay for the rights up front.
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post #379 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 04:24 PM
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OLN telecasts will include increased behind-the-scenes access, net cameras and in-game interviews. Comcast will bring the NHL Network, currently only available in Canada, to CABLE systems in the United States.
great- now i gotta dump my direct tv/ hd, my direct tv tivo and go back to comcast cable :eek:

full article here http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/news?slug=ap-nhl-oln&prov=ap&type=lgns

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post #380 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 06:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fredfa
I don't have a passionate displeasure.
I just think it is a stupid and short sighted move on the NHL's part.
As an invaluable promotional platform, it loses the several million people who tune in to the various SportsCenters each night. They are fans of football, baseball, basketball, and other sports.
If shown interesting stories and highlights from the NHL, they might tune in to the games (especially when ESPN promotes them incessantly.)
Well, this is the crux of the question, isn't it. The point is that the NHL has HAD that position and advantage for the last several seasons, and it has meant diddly squat. Hockey has been increasingly marginalized on SportsCenter over the last few years, and cross-promo doesn't seem to be working.
The question really becomes whether those "fans of football, baseball, basketball, and other sports" as represented by the ESPN audience really represent the potential market. The way ESPN is going, I'm not so sure - it is becoming more and more a network for 'talking about sports' than 'showing sports', and the NHL gets the shaft in most of those discussions. In my experience, hockey fans are not necessarily ESPN viewers, and those that are will follow the game to OLN.

I am certainly not convinced that the NHL will pull this off successfully, but I really do believe that getting out from being the #3 or #4 priority at ESPN to being (however temporarily) the #1 priority at Comcast/OLN is a good thing, at least for now. Comcast is knowingly using this as a growth opportunity, and (hopefully) won't completely freak when they get numbers like 250-300k households for the initial broadcasts. With good HD coverage and the auxiliary support programs and streaming highlights etc, I think they actually have a shot at bringing a new perspective to the game, which IMHO there is just too much history with ESPN to have done.
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post #381 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 06:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dr_mal
Hasn't the schedule already been released [link]? Are they talking about 2006-07?
Yeah - I'm wondering about that Monday exclusive as well. The Avs for example have 10 Monday night games this year, and while a couple of those will probably become OLN games, suddenly axing 10 games from the local coverage contract isn't going to sit well with anyone.

OTOH, I *really* like the idea of setting up a true national exclusive game once a week. One of the big problems the NHL faces is that with so many games in flight, most fans are watching their local teams and not the national picture. A true weekly exclusive game where no other teams were playing could go a long way towards getting local/regional fans paying more attention to the national scene. Of course, the problem with this is the same as MNF faces - you have to set the matchups at the beginning of the season, and that March Col-Det game that looked so interesting in Aug when they make the schedule becomes a dud when both teams tank and are out of the playoff race. Unfortunately, I don't think it'll ever be possible to build enough flexibilty into the schedule to allow re-scheduling to take advantage of hot teams/good storylines, since so many buildings are shared.
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post #382 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 06:22 PM
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post #383 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 07:33 PM
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This Variety story answers a few of the questions raised about exclusivity of the Monday night games…..
Icing out the competition
OLN shoots for game of week

By JOHN DEMPSEY variety.com

NEW YORK -- The National Hockey League plans to create a Monday-night game of the week during the 2006-07 season for exclusive carriage by Comcast's Outdoor Life Network (OLN).

That revelation was one of the new wrinkles in the three-year deal that funneled the cable rights to NHL games to OLN. The game of the week won't begin in the 2005-06 season, the first year of the contract, because the NHL had already drawn up the schedule before concluding its negotiations with OLN.

The only exclusivity OLN will get this season for the 58 regular-season games it carries every Monday and Tuesday night is with the contests being covered by the network.

If OLN has New York vs. Boston, for example, the regional sports networks in those cities will not be allowed to carry the games. But any other non-OLN games being played on Monday and Tuesday will get carriage as usual on the sports regionals.

OLN will also carry the NHL All-Star game exclusively in the U.S., and will cablecast most of the postseason games, sharing them with NBC, which has the broadcast rights but will broadcast only seven playoff games overall. OLN gets games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, and NBC gets games 3 through 7.

The OLN deal "is the best news that the NHL has received in a long while," said Kevin O'Malley, sports consultant and former senior VP of sports for Turner Broadcasting.

O'Malley said the NHL was genuinely worried a few months ago that because of the work stoppage that cancelled the 2004-05 season, and the game's chronically low Nielsen ratings, the league might have to settle for a cable deal mirroring the NBC contract, which called for no license fees. Instead, NBC agreed to share advertising revenues generated by the games, after the network deducted the cost of producing its game coverage.

ESPN, the previous cable rights' holder of NHL games, walked away from a renewal that included $60 million a year in license fees. OLN will pay the NHL $65 million in the first year of the contract, $70 million in year two and $72.5 million in year three.
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post #384 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 11:01 PM
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NHL 'In Love' With New TV Deal

By Larry Stewart Los Angeles Times Staff Writer August 19, 2005

It may not seem sensible to televise hockey, an indoor sport, on the Outdoor Life Network, but NHL officials seemed pleased with their new national television contract Thursday.

"We're in love with the whole deal," said Tim Leiweke, the president of AEG, which owns the Kings. "And we have the right partners. We will miss ESPN, which did a phenomenal job, but this deal marks a fresh start.

"ESPN was a servant to 20 masters. On OLN, at least for now, we will be the single most important sport."

Leiweke, on a business trip to London, added, "A lot of credit goes to [NHL Commissioner] Gary Bettman. He did something a lot of people never thought he'd be able to do."

The new deal calls for OLN, as the network now prefers to be called, to televise NHL regular-season games on Monday and Tuesday nights. OLN will also cover the playoffs, including the first two games of the Stanley Cup series.

NBC, as part of a revenue-sharing deal first announced in May 2004, will televise the remaining games of the finals in prime time. NBC will also televise six Saturday games during the regular season.

The NHL's cable TV agreement is with Comcast, which owns OLN. It calls for a rights fee of $65 million this season and $70 million in 2006-07, with a 2007-08 option-year rights fee of at least $72.5 million.

The agreement between the NHL and Comcast was approved by the NHL's board of governors last week. ESPN, which in June passed on an exclusive option to pick up the NHL at $60 million for this season, had until Wednesday to match the Comcast numbers. ESPN announced late Wednesday night that it would pass. Details of the Comcast deal were announced Thursday.

One drawback to the new deal is that OLN is available in only about 60% of the nation's 109 million television homes. The availability in the L.A. market is only 40%.

ESPN is in about 90% of all television households.

Gavin Harvey, OLN president, said that the acquisition of the NHL rights should improve distribution.

"We think this is absolutely a growth mechanism for us," he said on a conference call."

Another drawback is that, according to Bettman, the plan is to make Monday nights exclusive to OLN.

So Monday night games cannot be shown on local television. The Kings, for example, have 12 games scheduled on Monday nights this season that can't be shown locally on FSN West. They can only be televised nationally if picked up by OLN.

Bettman said that in future seasons, fewer games would be scheduled on Monday nights.

"Everyone should keep in mind that for this season, we did our schedule before we had this relationship," he said on a conference call.

Of ESPN's decision to pass, George Bodenheimer, the network's president, said in a statement, "Given the prolonged work stoppage and the league's TV ratings history, no financial model even remotely supports the contract terms offered. We wish the NHL all the best."

Steve Burke, Comcast chief operating officer, offered a different viewpoint.

"I think hockey is going to change and evolve tremendously in the next two years, and you've got a lot of brand new technology, most notably high definition," he said. "And you've got a network in Outdoor Life that I think has shown through its coverage of the Tour de France that, when it gets behind a sport, it can really help bring it to a new level."
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post #385 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 11:05 PM
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"I think hockey is going to change and evolve tremendously in the next two years, and you've got a lot of brand new technology, most notably high definition," he said. "And you've got a network in Outdoor Life that I think has shown through its coverage of the Tour de France that, when it gets behind a sport, it can really help bring it to a new level."
That's great. If only the NHL could ever get Comcast to budge with Directv and we maybe could actually see how great the NHL in HD is.
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post #386 of 567 Old 08-18-2005, 11:08 PM
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Cable Company's Ambition for a Network Proves a Salvation for the N.H.L.


By RICHARD SANDOMIR The New York Times August 19, 2005

There was a time through the spring and summer when Gary B. Bettman, the commissioner of the National Hockey League, looked like a man without a neutron of leverage to his cable television negotiations. ESPN had just said that the N.H.L.'s rights were not worth much - certainly not $60 million, the sum that ESPN on Wednesday rejected paying for the coming season by not exercising its option to do so.

As he looked at what seemed like a bleak, post-lockout terrain, where no network should knock itself by bidding a cent for N.H.L. rights, Bettman said he set a $60 million floor for bidders. How rosy! How outlandish!

"I didn't budge," he said yesterday.

Then along came OLN, the once-leafy former Outdoor Life Network, whose owner, Comcast, has ambitions for it beyond the Tour de France and bullriding and whose needs created a sudden demand for Bettman's product.

"This wasn't a question of luck or timing," Bettman said. "If you're suggesting that we were acutely aware of the marketplace, we'll plead guilty to that."

Of course there was luck, or at least a fortunate confluence of events. OLN's ambitious growth plans met a league that is essentially coming out of long-term rehabilitation, with rules changes and Hot Stove-like player movement.

"To have a valuable, storied franchise, a major sport, come to our network, takes our value proposition to a higher level," said Gavin Harvey, OLN's president.

Bettman is accustomed to benefiting from luck, or at least one bidder's needs.

In 1998, he bore witness to ESPN and ABC overpaying $600 million for a five-year contract; its competition, Fox, wanted to cut its rights fees. "I didn't attend the negotiations wearing a mask and a gun, and they weren't in a trance," he said then.

Bettman had been talking to Comcast for more than a year about carrying the NHL Network, a round-the-clock digital channel thus far available only in Canada.

Then, beginning in April, he said, as ESPN mulled if it would pay $60 million, he began discussions with Jeff Shell, Comcast's new president for programming.

"His emergence as an important person in the talks was critical," Bettman said.

In the end, they made a deal that will pay the league $65 million this season, $70 million next season and $72.5 million in 2007-8, if Comcast agrees to pick up its option. Comcast has an additional option to carry three more seasons.

Comcast must carry the NHL Network on its digital sports tier, and if it doesn't meet subscriber goals after two years, pay the league $15 million. Another $15 million will be paid on a dual contingency: if OLN grows to 80 million subscribers, from the current 64 million, and OLN buys a half-season of cable rights to a second major sport, like Nascar or Major League Baseball.

OLN will carry at least 58 games each season, on Monday and Tuesday nights, the All-Star Game and playoff games through Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals, when NBC will take over; make games and other hockey content available on video-on-demand; stream games on the Internet; and show some in high definition.

Comcast's deal looks as if it were erected to deter ESPN, although the price of admission was likely more of a repellent. For one, ESPN could not have carried the NHL Network (although the league might have taken money instead). Second, it could not carry games on Monday nights (when it will show the National Football League next year), but if ESPN were willing, the night could have been switched.

But why would Comcast, the largest cable operator in the United States, do this?

Comcast has widening sports ambitions, seen in the growth of its regional sports networks and in the percolating possibility that it will buy a package of Thursday and Saturday night N.F.L. games.

"When we looked at how OLN should evolve, we saw the Tour de France as the most successful thing we had," Shell said.

"It's exclusive content, and the home of core fans of cycling for three weeks. With hockey, we see similar things. It's a blank canvas we can own, like the Tour de France. We're not coming in here expecting to grow ratings by 300 percent, but we want to play to the core hockey fan." But, he said, "We're both taking a leap of faith."

Some fans, beyond those who cannot get OLN, with 26 million fewer subscribers than ESPN, may not be thrilled. Those who get OLN on digital sports tiers, like Cablevision's iO customers, will not be able to see their local teams. With OLN available on basic cable to 90 percent of its subscribers, that is a small downside to a deal that has Bettman feeling like the king of his realm.

"OLN will make us the priority we should be," he said. "At ESPN, there is a reality, that if you're one of many, you can't get the same attention as if you're perhaps the most important asset that's there."
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post #387 of 567 Old 08-19-2005, 06:34 AM
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You could be right, dwk123.
Well, we'll see - I'm just making this up and guessing like everyone else.

Thanks for posting all the news/press releases. I haven't seen most of these anywhere else.

A bit of contradictory info on the Monday night exclusive for this year - one saying that it won't go into effect until next year, the other implying that it will. I suspect the former, but we'll have to see.

Definately time to sign up for digital/HD. I'm on Comcast in Denver, so I "should" get the Avs and whatever OLN games are carried in HD.
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post #388 of 567 Old 08-19-2005, 06:42 AM
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Comcast out to turn pucks into bucks

By Don Steinberg

Inquirer Staff Writer


Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp. yesterday made its biggest splash yet in national sports television, and the resurrected National Hockey League found someone willing to pay millions to put its games on TV in the United States.

The league and the cable company unveiled details of their TV deal, under which Comcast-owned cable channel OLN will dedicate Monday and Tuesday nights to NHL games beginning in October.

OLN, available in 64 million U.S. homes, will show at least 58 regular-season hockey games, the NHL All-Star Game, and the playoffs up through Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, when NBC will pick up coverage.

NHL and Comcast officials would not comment publicly on financial details, but sources involved in the deal have said OLN is paying about $65 million, $70 million and $72.5 million for each of the first three years.

The first NHL on OLN game will be Oct. 5, opening day of the 2005-06 season, when the New York Rangers play the Flyers at the Wachovia Center. It will not be blacked out locally. Comcast says no Flyers games carried on OLN will be blacked out locally, even to satellite customers.

Flyers games will still be shown on Comcast SportsNet, although a few during the season will be shown on OLN.

Indeed, much of Comcast's payback for its investment in hockey, besides revenue from TV advertisers, will be its ability to charge cable providers more money to carry OLN, the former Outdoor Life Network.

OLN is in fewer homes than ESPN or ESPN2 (available in 90 million and 89 million homes, respectively), and in a few areas it is available only on digital cable or in extra-price sports tiers. Steve Burke, Comcast's chief operating officer, said a number of cable affiliates' contracts to carry OLN will expire at the end of this year and will be renegotiated.

"If you're in an NHL market, you have to assume your affiliate fee will go up," Burke said.

That does not automatically translate into higher fees for consumers, but the math is compelling. Sports TV consultant Lee Berke calculates that if OLN can get carriers to pay an extra 10 cents per month per subscriber, as a rough example, at nearly 60 million subscribers, that's almost $6 million a month or $72 million a year in new revenue, covering the entire rights fee before one ad is sold. "I don't think it's a tremendous financial risk for them at all," Berke said.

Comcast's rise to potentially rival ESPN as a national sports programmer makes for a good soap opera, but Comcast's bottom-line desire is not to become king of sports. Its priority is to get the most money out of the multibillion-dollar investment it has made running fiber-optic cable to millions of U.S. homes.

Sports lead the way

Exclusive sports content has always driven media businesses, consultant Berke says. The cable giant is set to launch a New York Mets channel in 2006, adding to its collection of regional sports channels.

The NHL deal gives it credibility to pursue other leagues. It is considered a contender to get rights to some NFL games in 2006. ESPN's contract with Major League Baseball expires after this season. ESPN charges Comcast more than any other programmer does. That may not change, but Comcast has gained leverage in fee negotiations.

Three months ago ESPN declined to pick up its $60 million option on this NHL season, citing poor ratings and the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 schedule. Mark Shapiro, ESPN's outgoing executive vice president, said at the time that NHL rights were not worth half that much.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman described the new deal as a "multifaceted national media relationship" with the nation's top cable and broadband Internet company that "will allow fans to get closer to hockey than they ever have before."

OLN's broadcasts will include technology and gimmicks such as miked players, in-game interviews, and net-cams to enhance a game whose rules have already been tweaked for the new season to encourage offense. Comcast and OLN will offer on-demand video highlights and archival programming to digital-cable subscribers and produce at least one game weekly in high definition.

On the ice, online

Comcast and OLN also will work with the NHL to make live game video available this season to broadband Internet users, probably as a pay service. Later they plan to bring the NHL Network, now available in Canada, to the United States. It will have 24 hours of hockey shows and eventually carry live games, although, Bettman said, "OLN gets first choice in the schedule."

OLN and the league want to create a national hockey night. For the 2006-07 season, the league will devise its schedule so that on a certain night each week, probably Monday, only one game will be played in the NHL, and it will be on OLN. The strategy seems to put hockey night against Monday Night Football, which is shifting to ESPN in 2006.

There's work to be done. OLN does not have a high-definition HD channel. OLN president Gavin Harvey said it will produce games in high definition and "make those available to our affiliates and distributors." Some OLN hockey games may be carried on local sports channels.

OLN and Comcast must build a national hockey production team and hire announcers. OLN plans to produce a postgame hockey show that will air after its live games, so it must build a studio.

Other than Fox, Comcast produces more hockey games than anyone in the United States through its regional SportsNet channels, but its resources are scattered. Comcast's local hockey production capability must stay local, covering teams including the Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals.

Harvey said OLN has contacted announcers, but "we're not ready to talk about exactly who they are."

OLN officially has expunged the word Outdoor from its name, going with just OLN since a July "rebranding." Harvey has been widening the channel's stated mission, saying it is about "competition of all types."

Bettman recalled the one NHL game played outdoors in 2003, on an iced-over football field in Edmonton, Alberta, with a windchill factor below zero. It was not televised in the United States.

"In the course of this [OLN] relationship, we'll probably endeavor to put on an outdoor game every season," Bettman said.
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post #389 of 567 Old 08-19-2005, 08:10 AM
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It sounds as though HD broadcasts of the Flyers on CSN will not be effected by this deal, but it isn't real clear. I'm concerned that the HD capacities in Philly will be used to support the OLN HD efforts and the Flyers will only be broadcast in SD on CSN. Anyone have any more information?
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post #390 of 567 Old 08-19-2005, 08:17 AM
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Originally Posted by rkunces
That's great. If only the NHL could ever get Comcast to budge with Directv and we maybe could actually see how great the NHL in HD is.
"There's work to be done. OLN does not have a high-definition HD channel. OLN president Gavin Harvey said it will produce games in high definition and 'make those available to our affiliates and distributors.' "

DirecTv could put the HD games on a "special events" channel like it does with HD feeds from RSNs.
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