SBD/May 10, 2013/Media

TV Distributors Will Be Compensated For Shortened NHL Season, But Not Customers

Forty-one percent of the NHL's regular season was lost this year due to the lockout
TV distributors are "being financially compensated for missed NHL games in this season shortened by labor problems, but hockey fans and other pay-TV subscribers won't see any of it," according to Bob Fernandez of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. Neither the NHL nor TV distributors "disclosed the financials in what the parties are describing as rebates, citing confidentiality agreements." Comcast said that cable channels "continued to deliver programming even though it was substituting for the canceled NHL games." The NHL canceled 510 regular-season games, or 41% of its schedule. League and network officials at the time of the lockout said that an "additional year of TV rights could be added to an NHL contract if a full season had to be canceled." Comcast CFO & Vice Chair Michael Angelakis said that the net's "programming costs -- which are expected to increase in the low double digits this year -- rose only 8.5 percent in the first quarter, partly because of 'lower sports programming costs.'" Comcast Cable President & CEO Neil Smit said, "Programming expense growth we still expect in the low double digits for 2013. We had a few exceptions in the first quarter, one of which was the NHL lockout, which resulted in a rebate, a one-time rebate" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/10).

TAKE THE GOOD WITH THE BAD? In Columbus, Michael Arace writes the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is "one of the great pageants in all of sports and it is being presented in all its glory," as every game is being carried on NBC, NBC Sports Network or CNBC. They also are "being streamed live" at NBCSports.com. It is "almost too intense to bear." NBC hockey analyst Daryl Reaugh said, "That’s what Gary Bettman set out to do -- make sure it was the No. 1 asset at whatever network it landed." He added, "No matter where you are, people understand NBC is NBC, and you can see every game" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 5/10). However, in St. Louis, Dan Caesar writes the NHL is "taking it to an extreme this year in trying to appease its big-bucks TV partners" and during the playoffs, the league's "kowtowing to the networks that televise it have come at a huge detriment to fans." The league in a move designed to provide TV programming "bungled the announcement of the starting dates and times of the first round so badly that it lost out on a full day to sell tickets in many locations." Some games in the Central Time Zone have had "extremely late announced starting times -- 8 or 8:30 p.m. in many cases." This is an "hour or hour and a half later than most teams normally begin games and creates an extreme hardship on many fans on weeknights" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/10).
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Media, NHL, Comcast Corp., NBC

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