SBJ/20090525/This Week's News

NHLPA’s Kelly pushes for TV change

NHL Players’ Association Executive Director Paul Kelly is calling for league TV partners Versus and NBC to do more to promote the NHL and NHL players, citing players’ growing frustration over hockey coverage.

“We have to push our two partners to do a better job of covering our sport … or we have to go in a different direction when that contract comes to an end,” Kelly told the Sports Lawyers Association on May 16. Kelly has called in the past for the NHL to return to ESPN.

Kelly said the fact that people in the U.S. could not watch most of the Boston-Carolina playoff Game 7 earlier this month because Versus was airing Anaheim-Detroit Game 7 “is a source of great frustration” to NHL players as well as the union.

Kelly conceded that Versus has improved production and has increased the number of homes and sports bars where it is available. However, he said, “There are still problems.”

“It is not ESPN,” Kelly said. “It doesn’t have a sports highlight show. It doesn’t have a lot of properties people want to tune in to, unless you are a hunter or a fisherman or you like turtle wrestling.”

Versus President Jamie Davis, responding to Kelly’s comments, said Versus made a significant commitment to the NHL when it agreed to a deal to take it over from ESPN in 2005. Versus “has televised significantly more hours of hockey coverage per night in the first two rounds of the playoffs this year than ESPN did in the same time span during the last several years of their deal.”

Total viewership for NHL regular-season games on Versus increased by 20 percent this year, and viewer numbers are up by 35 percent through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

During his Sports Lawyers speech, Kelly said that although NBC has improved the reach of the sport, he was concerned about the limited amount of coverage that the network provided to hockey.

NBC said in a statement, “On NBC, the NHL has had the highest-rated regular-season game in 34 years [this year’s Winter Classic on New Year’s Day] and the most-viewed Stanley Cup Final in seven years.”

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, who was at the Sports Lawyers Association conference and spoke to the group before Kelly, said in an e-mail, “I believe Paul was trying to be supportive, while at the same time expressing hope that things could be improved.”

Daly would not comment on whether Kelly’s statements could hurt the NHL’s bargaining position in future TV talks. The Versus deal runs through the 2010-11 season.

“I think Paul would be the first to admit that it’s easier to be critical in his position — where he doesn’t have the benefit of the history or the necessary understanding of our relationships,” Daly wrote. “Suffice it to say, we’re very pleased with our current national broadcasting relationships.”

Return to top
Video Powered By - Castfire CMS Powered By - Sitecore

Report a Bug