Wednesday, 15 July 2009

No News Is Good News... I Guess

With the announcement today that the 2010 NHL Winter Classic will be officially played on January 1, 2010 in Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts between the hometown Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers, my interest was more geared towards the television side of the NHL. Of course, it should be no surprise that fans in Canada are flooded with hockey telecasts all season long thanks to the combined efforts of every Canadian-based television station across the Great White North. The American landscape, however, is a much different place, and Versus is the only real national station delivering hockey on a regular basis. NBC's contract was up for renewal, and they always begin their NHL broadcasts with the Winter Classic game. So it was with some serious intent that I awaited the announcement regarding NBC's participation in broadcasting the NHL this season.

Gary Bettman announced today that the NHL and NBC had indeed reached an agreement that will keep the NHL on NBC for national broadcasts until the end of the 2010-11 season. The two-year pact will resume once again this year with the Winter Classic from Fenway Park.

According to reports, the deal is "basically" the same in terms of the profit-sharing agreement that both sides receive, essentially mirroring the deal that was originally signed in 2008. The NHL and NBC first entered into this profit-sharing agreement in January of 2006, and have extended the deal each year since then. NBC has also committed to broadcasting five games of the Stanley Cup Final in both years of this new deal.

"We are both very happy with the relationship we have," Bettman said at the press conference this afternoon from Fenway Park. "We're delighted with the coverage NBC has given us, and we know that NBC is happy to have us in their stable of sports properties."

NBC has to be happy with the viewership they've received, particularly with the Winter Classic games. Last season's Winter Classic game from Wrigley Field between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings was the most-watched regular season game for the NHL in 34 years, and NBC won a Sports Emmy for their promotion of the 2009 Winter Classic. Game Seven of this past season's Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings was the most-watched NHL game in the last 36 years. Needless to say, advertising dollars should be easy to attract with those kinds of numbers.

"We're thrilled to be able to continue our relationship with the NHL and build on all the positive momentum on and off the ice," NBC Sports president Ken Schanzer said at the press conference. "Together, we have attained viewership milestones not seen in more than three decades. And the Winter Classic, in just two years, has become one of the highlights of the sports calendar."

NBC has pioneered some pretty cool ideas in its short partnership with the NHL. The "Inside The Glass" feature is now used by several hockey outlets during their broadcasts. They devised an innovative advertising method of showing advertisements on the glass - something that does bother me, but doesn't necessarily take away from the game.

Unfortunately, NBC still has Pierre McGuire on and that's a major drawback, but there is no denying that employing the services of the legendary Mike "Doc" Emrick as their featured play-by-play guy is one of the reasons that the NHL on NBC has been so popular.

Overall, I am happy with this new agreement. It means I get one more channel with hockey, and that's never a bad thing. Kudos to Gary Bettman and to NBC for continuing this partnership. It will only help hockey grow in the United States, and that's an excellent outlook.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

JTH said...

Versus is a real national station? Who knew?