NHL Popularity Increase & TV Rights

18 Feb

It is not a secret that the NHL has been gaining popularity ever since the dreaded lockout that occurred in 2005. More and more fans are being attracted towards the newer, faster paced game. They are also being drawn to the Winter Classic, and the Heritage Classic this year. The Winter Classic has roughly grown in TV ratings 3 of its 4 years of existence. A 7 game grueling playoff series is one of the best sports event to watch. There are also an emergence of young stars, not just Crosby and Ovechkin but Stamkos, Tavares, and Mike Richards. This brings me to the TV Rights for the NHL next year.

After this year in the NHL the TV rights for Versus and NBC expire. There is much debate on who will acquire the rights of this up and coming sport for next year. The choices are Versus re-upping their contract, along with NBC also re-upping. The newcomers are ESPN taking the reigns, FOX, and Turner. I personally would love to see the NHL back on ESPN. I think that they show way too much College Basketball and occasionally it is between 2 teams that really do not matter. For Example they showed an ACC game between NC State and Clemson? that is a game that really does not matter in regards to the NCAA Tournament. They could have 1-2 nights a week and after Football is over play games Sunday afternoon similar to how NBC does it right now. ESPN usually shows NBA on Wednesday and Friday, they can cut that down to one day and continue their Sunday ABC games. I propose that they use Friday Night as Hockey Night, possibly using both ESPN and ESPN2 or doing a back to back game at 7 & 10.

The other station I would not mind is Turner. They seem like they are up and coming by getting Conan O’Brien as a late night host. They also have multiple channels that they could offer games on like TBS, and TNT. This will allow for a widespread of marketing and these channels are usually offered by every cable company. Also TBS always has been known for the NBA and MLB playoffs so they could take their success from there and shift it towards the NHL.

It will be an interesting bidding war because I am sure Versus does not want to lose the rights that made them an actual channel, but ESPN, Turner, and other bidders could have enough money to outbid them.

-DB

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