SBD/October 6, 2011/NHL Season Preview

NBC Hopes To Continue Ratings Gains As It Kicks Off New 10-Year Deal With NHL

NHL saw strong ratings for the Bruins-Canucks Stanley Cup Final
The NHL has "never been on stronger ice" in the U.S., as  NBC and Versus "saw ratings increase 84% over the past four years, including record audiences" for the Stanley Cup Final and the Winter Classic, according to Thomas McLean of DAILY VARIETY. The NHL during the offseason signed a 10-year deal with NBC/Versus, worth a reported $2B. NBC Sports and Versus President of Programming Jon Miller said that the "audience for hockey and NBC's ability to use its resources to reach them, make for a strong fit, and the demo is one the network is looking to attract." Miller said, "They're affluent, educated and predominately men. It's an audience that advertisers want to reach, because it's not that easy to get them." McLean notes making it "easy for marketers and advertisers to reach that aud led the NHL and NBC to forge a second pact under which they will pool their media shares." NBC's sales group "will represent the NHL for ad sales for every platform -- mobile, online and traditional broadcast" (VARIETY.com, 10/6). NBC Senior VP/Group Sales & Marketing Seth Winter "would not give specifics," but said that sales "for NHL games are pacing well ahead of last year, with most advertisers bundling the sale with another sports property on NBC." Winter said, "We're asking people to participate in a deeper way. We always look to do broader deal" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/26 issue).

BIGGER AND BETTER: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Etan Vlessing noted the NHL on NBC also is "getting more Canadian, with Canuck hockey analyst Pierre McGuire now working exclusively on NBC and Versus telecasts, alongside American on-air talent Eddie Olczyk, Mike Milbury, and Mike 'Doc' Emrik." Those commentators also will "start showing up on the NHL Network, as part of the new NHL-NBC relationship." NHL COO John Collins said of the NBC and Versus telecasts, "We'll look better, we'll look bigger, and have more bells and whistles and more story-telling" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 10/5). Meanwhile, VARIETY’s McLean writes digital offerings “such as video content on NHL.com, the online game-streaming subscription service ‘NHL GameCenter Live’ and mobile content have all grown rapidly.” NHL.com reports that average monthly unique viewers “grew 30% in 2010-11 over the previous season, while subs to ‘GameCenter’ rose 37%” (VARIETY.com, 10/6).

FOREIGN CURRENCY: YAHOO SPORTS’ Greg Wyshynski wrote fans in Europe "won’t have the NHL available on television when the puck drops this week." The NHL’s contract with ESPN America “ended after last season, and the League sought to expand and rethink its television coverage in Europe.” It signed a “five-year deal with Medge Consulting and its partner Advisers Media International (AMI) to represent the international media rights for the NHL in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.” This third party “is trying to cut a dozen deals at the same time, their asking price buoyed by increased competition for the rights and the popularity of the product." Wyshynski noted, “This has made some television providers cringe” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/4). SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Fred Dreier examined the NHL's overseas strategy under the header, "A Goal To Reach Europe" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/26 issue).  

ON THE TUBE: CABLEFAX DAILY noted that the NHL Network “is no longer carried by AT&T U-verse TV, the victim of weekend darkness after the telco said it tried but was unable to reach a fair, long-term deal with the net it had delivered to U450 and sports tier subs.” Meanwhile, In Demand and the NHL “are offering an 18-day free preview of out-of-market games package 'NHL Center Ice' from Oct 6-23 via at least 9 multichannel ops including all the big cable MSOs” (CABLEFAX DAILY, 10/5).
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