FanDuel - WFBC

May 23, 2006

Great hockey, yes, but is anyone watching?: Regular-season broadcasts on OLN this year drew an average of only 117,000 households, according to Nielsen, compared with the 416,000 homes that watched hockey broadcasts on ESPN and the 209,000 homes that watched games on ESPN2 in 2003-04. To put those numbers in perspective, more people watched the 13 WNBA broadcasts on ESPN2 last year than the NHL on OLN this year.

posted by dyams to hockey at 07:58 AM - 52 comments

Any league stupid enough to put their national package on a station such as OLN needs to be eliminated due to stupidity. I live just south of Buffalo, and even with the Sabres in the conference finals, most of this area can't see the games because their cable carriers don't offer OLN. Brilliant!

posted by dyams at 08:03 AM on May 23

We don't get OLN on our regular cable either. If the NHL really wants to encourage new fans and keep the ones it has maybe they should get with a network that can broadcast to more people. Seems like a common sense solution to me

posted by starsfan at 08:37 AM on May 23

Hopefully OLN will work all of their glitches (dummy broadcasters, advertising, broadcasting availability, etc.) worked out for next season. I will give them a free pass this year only because it is their first season. Now if the same things are going on next year, I will definately have some
wall-to-wall counseling with the bigwigs...

posted by wingnut4life at 08:49 AM on May 23

I'm not going to participate in providing leverage for ESPN to get the NHL back after it abandoned the league while it was at its lowest. ...fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again.

posted by garfield at 08:49 AM on May 23

I'm sure the NHL would love to broadcast on a better network, but the strike compiled with obvious lack of interest this year, is going to make it difficult going forward. They shot themselves in the foot and then television viewers shot them in the other foot. The NHL needs a fan-based, NHL-backed marketing plan. Let the fans get their friends and family to watch, and back it up with weblogs supporting the sport complete with NHL trademarked content. If my weblog attracts 10 people a day, that's 10 people who see how great I think the sport is. Networking leads to more people who get more people watching. NASCAR has committed itself to technology and look how fast the sport has grown!

posted by lauch at 08:51 AM on May 23

I am only seeing the Western Conference final because Windsor channel 9 carries the games. Don't get the Eastern final because it's on OLN. Comcast owns OLN & my cable supplier is WOW, a competitor. I guess the first 2 Finals games will also be on OLN then switch to ABC or is it NBC. I know the NHL was desperate for a TV package but when you are trying to win back old fans & get new fans who in the Hell decided to take this TV deal? I am disappointed. My kids are disappointed, but Hey they are playing, even if we can’t see’em!

posted by directpressure at 08:59 AM on May 23

ESPN dropped the ball, I would much rather watch poker re-runs or a good ole fashioned WNBA game. Bah. I am a bartender at a high volume bar and we don't even get OLN!! Since the Flyers bowed out I haven't watched much hockey, but my roomies and patrons still wanna pay attention, but they can't cuz there are no games on TV. Junk, thank God the Preakness was an awesome race, NOT!! At least basketball is still free. Comcast=Cable Nazis....why can't I get my hometown teams in Wyoming?

posted by GoBirds at 09:18 AM on May 23

Yes, I think that part of the problem is availability. Chances are, there are more people who want to watch, but cannot. However, it is painfully clear that there isn't a big league audience for hockey in the US, outside of the towns still playing. Personally, I don't care (I'm sick of caring about the well-being of this league) I know where I am, hockey will be around forever. If ten teams folded, hockey will still be around here. If it is unsupportable in some markets, well, then it is unsupportable. Too bad, so sad. I'm not going to beg people to love this the way I do. As far as I'm concerned it's their loss.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 09:26 AM on May 23

Roger that Weedy!

posted by directpressure at 09:33 AM on May 23

I haven't watched the playoffs since the Stars were eliminated, though I'll probably watch the Cup finals. I think the league took a step forward this year, in spite of the lower ratings on OLN. The labor deal's better, the game's getting out of the neutral zone trap era, and competition's better. In the long run, these things help the NHL more than the loss of ES-Poker-N.

posted by rcade at 09:38 AM on May 23

Fortunately, I live in Colorado, and the team owner has his own channel for almost all of the Avs games. I am also fortunate that I get OLN. Having said that, the NHL really needs to get its act together and get a better TV deal or they are going to virtually disappear. Bettman, get off your overpaid ass and gitter done!

posted by bobrolloff at 09:41 AM on May 23

Personally, I don't care (I'm sick of caring about the well-being of this league) I know where I am, hockey will be around forever. Amen brudda, I could give two shits about the widespread popularity of hockey, it has its nitch and ain't going anywhere.

posted by HATER 187 at 09:43 AM on May 23

It's a chicken and egg problem. The NHL is not getting a better TV deal if it doesn't get better ratings. Apparently, it's also not getting better ratings until it gets a better TV deal. In other words, Bettman can't just pull a fanbase out of his ass. And what Weedy said, too.

posted by qbert72 at 09:53 AM on May 23

Personally, I don't care (I'm sick of caring about the well-being of this league) I know where I am, hockey will be around forever. I'm not going to beg people to love this the way I do. I think it's that sort of attitude that has stood in the way of hockey gaining more popularity. So many hockey fans act like they're some elite clique, like it's some badge of honor that they follow a sport the masses don't seem to follow. In the meantime the NHL is allowed to be run in a minor-league way, making stupid decisions that effect the game's future, and they get away with it! In the meantime, nothing has changed and big hockey fans STILL can't see games in the most important part of the season! Their only recourse is shelling out more hard-earned money to be able to see a championship series. Many people in western New York, for example, were in a frenzy following the Sabres win over Carolina in game one. Now game two comes along and it's nowhere to be found on the airwaves. Nobody is telling hardcore fans they need to sell out their love for the game. But it's that type of attitude that will allow the NHL braintrust to continue making stupid decisions.

posted by dyams at 10:02 AM on May 23

Weedy I do love the sport. I was born and raised to bleed the orange and black. Having lived in a ski town in Wyoming for seven years and still loving my teams has been very difficult. Thank god for the internet and you guys.

posted by GoBirds at 10:11 AM on May 23

So many hockey fans act like they're some elite clique, like it's some badge of honor that they follow a sport the masses don't seem to follow. Man, we're in Canada. This is no elite clique, we are the masses, and we all hate Bettman with a passion (have you read other hockey treads around here?). Nobody is telling hardcore fans they need to sell out their love for the game. But it's that type of attitude that will allow the NHL braintrust to continue making stupid decisions. Please tell me how us hardcore Canadian fans can help you Americans get a good TV deal for the NHL. Bettman has been screwing the NHL for a long time, and it's not a TV deal that's going to fix it. You've got your thinking backwards. You need to fix the NHL, and then you may get some interest back in the States.

posted by qbert72 at 10:13 AM on May 23

More people watched 13 WNBA games on ESPN2 than hockey on OLN. Well DUH! Who WOULDN'T want to watch the WNBA (as I open bottle of sleeping pills to ingest entire contents).

posted by Desert Dog at 10:18 AM on May 23

Personally, I don't care (I'm sick of caring about the well-being of this league) I know where I am, hockey will be around forever. I wish I could say the same thing, but where I am there is no hockey. I have to either fly to another city or drive two hours to go to a game. So far I've gone to 5 games this year, which is 4 times more than I did any previous year. I let Dishnetwork talk me into signing a 1 year deal. Then right after the season started they dropped OLN. I had already purchased Center Ice so it didn't bother me too much until the playoffs started. Fortunately they picked OLN back up before round 1 was over. Who are these Neilsen families anyway? I don't know any. With the way satellite works can't they tell that I'm watching hockey? Please tell me how us hardcore Canadian fans can help you Americans get a good TV deal for the NHL. You could adopt me (so what if I'm thirty-something).

posted by MrFrisby at 10:22 AM on May 23

Bettman has been screwing the NHL for a long time, and it's not a TV deal that's going to fix it. You've got your thinking backwards. You need to fix the NHL, and then you may get some interest back in the States. This whole mess got rolling when Bettman tried to put teams in cities where teams probably didn't belong in hopes of getting and keeping the big national TV $$$'s... So he could say "look at all the great US markets we're in." They signed a big deal with FOX, thought they were bigtime, then salaries went through the roof. Then the numbers never lived up. It's just a very regional game in the US. A large, large majority of US fans tune out when their teams bow out.

posted by SummersEve at 10:23 AM on May 23

Seriously dyams - hockey might be clique-y in the States, but it is faaaaarrrrrrr from it up here. We all want a prosperous league that is popular in the States - but if it ain't going to happen naturally, it just ain't going to happen. And I'm not going to apologise/whine for it being a second tier sport in some places any more. Fuck 'em - hockey is great. Them not liking it doesn't it stop it from being great. It's okay by me if Nashville folds up. Same goes for Phoenix, Florida, and other places. I love that Columbus is a good spot that sells out (we'll see how well they do after they stop giving tickets away so cheaply). I love that hockey is back in Minnesota where it belongs. The rest of Bettman's world can go to hell. Why should I care?

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:58 AM on May 23

I do apologize to those of you in Canada, because my comments were directed at the U.S. Where I live, there are so many youth hockey leagues, and the sport is thriving with that age group. But them, and their families, can't hardly follow the game because of such sporadic coverage. I am a hockey fan, living in a hockey area, but it's just so frustrating to wait and see each year which channels hockey will be broadcast on, only to find my provider doesn't offer it. And it's not like I only get three network stations, by TV plan currently gets close to 200 stations. I agree that ESPN basically abandoned the sport, but I think it was up to the NHL at that point to make a better sales pitch, realizing that network, for better or worse, reaches far more households. The popularity of the sport in the U.S. won't happen in one huge spurt, but with a bit more planning and common-sense marketing, I believe consistent improvement is a realistic possibility.

posted by dyams at 11:23 AM on May 23

This whole mess got rolling when Bettman tried to put teams in cities where teams probably didn't belong in hopes of getting and keeping the big national TV $$$'s... So he could say "look at all the great US markets we're in." Yeah, like Anaheim and Carolina! What the heck was he thinking! ;) Seriously, I used to have a huge grudge against Bettman. However, I have to admit that I REALLY like the product that is on the ice right now. I also like that former near-bankrupt teams like Edmonton and Buffalo are competitive. In general, I think Bettman is a knob, but I have to congratulate him on how things look this year. Please note: praise for Bettman is on a temporary, renewable basis. Praise may be revoked at any time.

posted by grum@work at 11:23 AM on May 23

The NHL should've included a clause in their negotiations with Comcast that 'tiering' OLN/Versus/whatever was a no-no.

posted by garfield at 11:27 AM on May 23

I have WOW and I get OLN and watch every game they have on,CBC has on and NBC,if you upgrade to DId.Basic you wil get OLN + STARZ and ENCORE dont be cheap its like 10 or 15 dollars a month more

posted by sirtt22 at 11:45 AM on May 23

This whole mess got rolling when Bettman tried to put teams in cities where teams probably didn't belong in hopes of getting and keeping the big national TV $$$'s... So he could say "look at all the great US markets we're in." Yeah! There's nothing that draws in more American TV viewers than teams in Quebec and Hartford. You can argue that the NHL expanded too fast, but it's doing well in places like Dallas, Denver and Raleigh.

posted by rcade at 11:46 AM on May 23

Interestingly, Buffalo apparently represents most of who's watching...Saturday's game 1 against Carolina "had a preliminary rating of 31 on Channel 2, which translates into 198,400 households" in Buffalo alone. "To put the rating in perspective, Outdoor Life Network (OLN), the National Hockey League's American cable rights holder, averaged 246,000 households nationally for its second-round playoff coverage." http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial/20060523/1066437.asp

posted by diastematic at 11:48 AM on May 23

I love that Columbus is a good spot that sells out (we'll see how well they do after they stop giving tickets away so cheaply). Yep, Weedy - I'm in Columbus. Don't know what will happen when they stop the $10 game-day walk-ups. I'm actually more concerned about what will happen if we go another couple years without sniffing the playoffs. Fans here have been pretty loyal, and the team has done a good job marketing it's young stars so that the city has someone to identify with, but the rumblings are starting. Because it's so new here, there are borderline fans that could become much more hardcore if it wasn't so "difficult". And by difficult, I mean that the NHL is hurting themselves with lack of coverage, and right or wrong, borderline fans are likely to devote their attention to something that is actually trying to attract them. While I understand what you're getting at - I don't think it's fair to tell those folks to "F off". Comcast owns OLN & my cable supplier is WOW, a competitor. directpressure - if that's the excuse you're getting, I think someone's trying to fuzzy the issue. I'm with WOW, and we get OLN, so I bet the problem is with your local affiliate owner.

posted by littleLebowski at 11:54 AM on May 23

There's nothing that draws in more American TV viewers than teams in Quebec and Hartford. I'm fairly certain that close to or over 117,000 households used to watch the Nordiques regular seasons games on TV. That's in a metropolitan area with a population of roughly half a million people. I think the question Weedy is asking is: when will that elusive quest for the American TV viewers end? It seems every decision of the Bettman era was made to meet that goal. That includes last year's lockout and this year's new rules. And where do we stand now? Even worse off than when Bettman took over, it seems. So maybe that's just the way things are. Demand for professional hockey is not big enough in the US to warrant big-time national TV coverage. It sucks if you're a true fan, but you'll have to admit it, and shell out some dough to get a good TV package if you want to see some hockey on the tube. That's what a niche product is about. Only slightly related: fuck NBC and their afternoon games. Afternoons are for baseball and football, not hockey.

posted by qbert72 at 12:34 PM on May 23

Yeah! There's nothing that draws in more American TV viewers than teams in Quebec and Hartford. You can argue that the NHL expanded too fast, but it's doing well in places like Dallas, Denver and Raleigh. And that's exactly what i'm arguing. Franchises move. They should have maybe tried a little harder to keep a team in Quebec, and Minnesota... Hartford was sadly doomed, and i don't know enough about Winnipeg.... but whatever, they moved. I'll argue that rapid expansion, (which not only diluted the talent level but brought in teams no one cared about at the expnse of rivals) caused what was then rapidly growing interest to quickly collapse. Bye bye big FOX money, hello massive contracts.

posted by SummersEve at 12:53 PM on May 23

I must confess that my ignorance of the cable provider situation in the U.S. had led me to believe that folks in the U.S. were not, and never would be, into hockey that much. However, now I begin to wonder if that is the case. Everyone in Canada (even those who don't have cable) can pick up CBC on t.v. or radio. Therefore, everyone in Canada gets Hockey Night in Canada on Saturdays. My dad tells me that there was only minimal interest in the NHL in Vancouver before the Canucks came along. In 1972, Vancouver now had an NHL team, and a hockey game on national t.v. (although usually an eastern game). It's no wonder that MLB and the NFL want to create their own television networks. If the NHL could get on every Saturday night in the U.S. on one of the Big Three networks (Fox is out b/c it seems like a lot of their stations are only available if you have cable), then maybe we could create a high level of interest in hockey in the U.S. Of course, the problem is that the networks want those high ratings before they will commit to showing hockey during prime-time. It's like a mouse chasing a cat.

posted by Lester at 01:31 PM on May 23

Everyone I am pretty fucking pissed. I just called my cable company Adelphia and they made an announcment that any one with Adelphia will get OLN on channel 71 for the playoffs. So i run my channel search and I'm not getting the channel. So I call them up and they say I dont get it because i get the basic cable with like 20 channels. I think thats bull shit. If we were playing a Canadian team I could watch it on CBC but because were playing Carolina I can't watch the fucking game. Well any way I called "the boys" up in Toronto and bitched for a while and read some of the things some of you guys said and they're representative said that was they're best offer and I let them have it from there. I just want to watch my team win the cup and I can't even do that....Christ.

posted by buffalo will never win at 01:33 PM on May 23

Luckily, I root for the San Jose Sharks, who are on FoxSports Bay Area most of the year. Un-luckily, when there was a conflict with a San Francisco Giants game for Game 6 of the Edmonton series, FoxSports BUMPED the playoff game for the Giants-Astros (or whoever, can't even remember who SF was playing). My brother called me and we were both pissed. The Sharks game had been dumped onto FoxSports Plus, which nobody outside of the Bay Area gets (I'm in Northern California's Central Valley, about 2 hours from San Jose). As long as the NHL gets disrespected like this the ratings won't go up because fans will give up trying to watch the games in the United States. I absolutely love hockey and I totally agree with a couple of the threads above that ESPN dropped the ball on this one. I can't stand watching poker 24/7 (who ever said that was a sport anyway?).

posted by donnnnychris at 01:49 PM on May 23

Comparing the numbers from ESPN to the numbers on OLN is apples and oranges. Unlike OLN, which is in, what, half of all cable packages and not on basic on barely any of them, there are thirty-seven ESPNs in every household. I'd be willing to bet that next year, OLN/Versus will be in a vastly better package situation than this year, and the numbers will reflect that. I wouldn't give up on the NHL being a viable national option in the States yet. Rebuilding the league will take time, patience, strategy and luck. I choose to be optimistic. Optimism is free.

posted by chicobangs at 02:00 PM on May 23

Welcome, Lester. Best first comment I've read in some time. chico, what makes you think the package/tier situation will improve?

posted by garfield at 02:09 PM on May 23

I Have never even heard of OLN..........So what Dies That show about the leauge..............

posted by ShaunWhite2791 at 02:12 PM on May 23

I'm definitely willing to let the new rules play out for a few years - once they fix the point structure the Death Star will be fully operational. The talent level is higher than I've ever seen. Another plus. Sure hockey could become popular. I don't see why not - but I'm not going to hold my breath. The NHL is just so damn minor league when it comes to it's marketing strategy. It's like the kid in high school who would do anything to get popular; practically screaming "Please like me!". Well dammit, I'm not going to like you until you find some self-respect.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 02:31 PM on May 23

The answer to not being able to watch OLN on cable is to get a satellite TV provider like DirectTV. We get all the FoxSportsNet channels that cover the Blue Jackets, and we get OLN for the rest of the nationally televised games. My friends who have Comcast in Michigan not only have FSN Detroit, which lets them see basically every Wings game, but they also have OLN on the standard Comcast package up there.

posted by insomnyuk at 02:42 PM on May 23

The NHL is just so damn minor league when it comes to it's marketing strategy. Come on now, they got Kiefer Sutherland (you may know him from the 'hit' TV series 24) to do the voice acting in the My Stanley Cup commercials. Not to mention Stanley's guest appearance on a soap opera. Thats pure marketing gold! Now if only they could get Paula Abdul...

posted by MrFrisby at 03:05 PM on May 23

After hanging with yall these past few months I was really getting interested in hockey. Put my 2cents in the playoff pools. Was looking forward to seeing some games. Just as mentioned earlier, I too had never heard of OLN until now. Living in the southern US of A where they say football is king I have been relegated to only seeing the games on NBC on Saturday afternoons. Living in an apartment dish satellite is no option. That being said I have found it difficult to keep my enthusiasm up. Don’t know the answer but it seems something needs to be done to make the NHL more accessible on TV. I'm just bummed out at the moment. oh yea, welcome to Spofi MrFrisby, you sk8ter wannabe (grin)

posted by Folkways at 04:13 PM on May 23

My friends who have Comcast in Michigan not only have FSN Detroit, which lets them see basically every Wings game, but they also have OLN on the standard Comcast package up there. Not only that but the people who are lucky enough to be close to Canada also get CBC and can enjoy other hockey games on there too.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 04:33 PM on May 23

garfield, I think the broadcast situation will change, because Comcast (who owns OLN, IIRC) recently started a serious rebranding campaign to set up a rival network to ESPN. That's why they're changing the name of the network, bringing on a bunch of formerly ESPN-style sports (hockey, bull riding, World's Strongest Man) and starting to phase out (or at least ghettoize) the outdoor & lifestyle shows that used to be its bread & butter. That's all happened in the last year, after they got the NHL. They limped through this season, but I have every expectation that next year will be better for the network and the NHL. (Remember, ESPN made its reputation in the 80's on the NHL's back as well.)

posted by chicobangs at 04:44 PM on May 23

They are rebranding the channel with different content (NHL on the FLY is great), but is Comcast making an effort to have the channel reach a broader audience without charging the consumer more moola? The benefit on advertising revenue of a few hundred thousand more peepers can't be lost on a cable company, can it? I think that is the question I want answered. Ideally Vs. should be on basic cable. So make that happen, NHL powers-that-be.

posted by garfield at 05:11 PM on May 23

Well, Bettman gets what Bettman wants, and I guess he wanted nobody to watch. Luckily here in the Detroit area we are privliged to get CBC coverage. Coverage from brodcasters who know the ins and outs of the game, not a brodcast crew who is waiting for football season to start, or who ESPN wouldn't let cover a baseball game. As for our goat Bettmen ..... He got the deal with OLN, so I think now he needs to market the game to markets like Lifetime, Oxygen, and hell maybe a Spanish talk station. I figure if he is going to limit coverage, he might as well put games on other channels that I and everybody else doesn't give two craps about!

posted by ESPNobody at 05:14 PM on May 23

Don't forget ESPN wan't too great with the NHL either. They showed "The Trial of the Yankees" rather than a first round playoff series in '04. I believe the series that was skipped was Tampa or Calgary. And those God-awful camera angles. Does CBC insist on zooming in on players face when the play develops as he comes across the redline? Or using that horrendous behind the net robot cam that can't keep up with the power play? At least OLN was too bare-bones to put in those extra crap cameras. I've felt ESPN's been on a steady decline since Disney took over. But i reckon that's a topic for another board.

posted by SummersEve at 05:32 PM on May 23

Ideally Vs. should be on basic cable. So make that happen, NHL powers-that-be. I agree, but I don't think that is something the NHL has any control over. From what I understand it works like this: Consumer (us) pays the television providers (Comcast, Adelphia, Dishnetwork, Direct TV, etc.), provider and advertisers pay OLN, OLN pays the NHL. OLN charges a high rate so providers will only put it on the premium packages. I'm no economy major, but it does seem like if OLN charged less so the providers would put it on a basic package, they could make up the difference in advertising revenues. I think the only thing the NHL can do is accept less money from a different network that has more viewers. Of course they would have to wait until thier contract with OLN expires, whenever that is. On a side note, I don't think I have watched anything on ESPN since they stopped showing hockey.

posted by MrFrisby at 06:08 PM on May 23

And speaking of advertising revenues, SAUSAGE!

posted by MrFrisby at 06:18 PM on May 23

*Screams for joy*

posted by Samsonov14 at 06:45 PM on May 23

Aside from the shitty four commercial constant loop that OLN plays during games, and their shitty, shitty broadcast team, and the fact that it's unavailable in many areas, I do have to give OLN props for one thing: The little NHL shows that they play before and after games are awesome. I really enjoy coming home and throwing on OLN to watch "quest for the cup" or whatever they're showing that night. They have some really interesting interviews with players and their families and the stories they tell really do a great job of getting you amped to watch the next game. OLN isn't all bad.

posted by Samsonov14 at 06:49 PM on May 23

Not only that but the people who are lucky enough to be close to Canada also get CBC and can enjoy other hockey games on there too. Yeah, but I still can't get friggin' CBC on my DirecTv satellite. Friggin' anti-Canadian bastards!

posted by wingnut4life at 06:50 PM on May 23

I dont get OLN but I listen to games on NHL.com

posted by houston2006 at 07:19 PM on May 23

I have one thing to say about getting the viewership back up here in the states "BRING BACK PETER PUCK" oh, and bring the Stars back home too....Why not the Wild in St Paul and the NORTH Stars in Minneapolis?

posted by elovrich at 07:45 PM on May 23

OLN is Comcast, so the NHL's broadcasting partner can lower its rate and make it more widely available through other providers. Unfortunately, I would assume that the NHL did not negotiate the deal with this end in mind, or were handcuffed by their weak position due to the owner lock-out. I don't think the NHL is forced to go back to ESPN, but it probably needs to lean on Comcast/Vs./OLN so that more people can watch NHL hockey without having to pay extra for it....especially with today's economic situation. As evidenced above, some people in Buffalo who have basic cable still won't spring for an available channel to watch their team in the conference finals. If that isn't a negative indicator, I don't know what is. sidenote - I have a feeling the NHL is paying attention to the consumers, as a comment I left on a different blog tracked back to the league office. Of course, I was being critical of the league and its itunes partnership, but atleast they cared enough to click.

posted by garfield at 10:38 AM on May 24

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