NHL TV Partners Brace For Lockout; TV Dollars Should Factor Into CBA Talks
The carriers of NHL broadcasts in Canada for now are "taking a restrained approach to the programming vacuum," according to Bruce Dowbiggin of the GLOBE & MAIL. Sportsnet Communications Dir Jennifer Neziol said, "We are exploring programming options in case the NHL season is delayed, but have nothing to confirm at this time." TSN Communications Dir Greg McIsaac said, "It is still early in the negotiation process. At this point we are monitoring developments." CBC Head of Media Relations Chuck Thompson said, "Negotiations have just begun and we don't speculate. CBC has contingency plans for all areas of programming -- it's what smart broadcasters do." Dowbiggin writes, "Evidently, the smartest thing a broadcaster can do is not ruffle the NHL's feathers with negotiations for a new national TV contract." NHL team owners are "under a gag order not to talk, and it would be prudent to do the same if you're a TV network." Unlike in the '04-05 lockout, the NHL has a "considerable TV component at play" if a labor dispute "goes too far." The league now "has much invested in its partnership with HBO on '24/7.'" For that series to "go as planned, filming must start in late November or early December." Losing the HBO connection "would be a blow to the prestige the NHL has built of late with its new initiatives." The NHL is "gambling that TV viewers who love hockey will once again put aside their favourite sport for an extended period of time so the league can try and stab at the sports industry paradigm [NHL Commissioner Gary] Bettman encountered when he took over as commissioner in 1993" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/17).
BLACK FRIDAY? On Long Island, Steve Zipay wrote, "Don't ignore one element that will be a factor when push-comes-to-shove down the road in the CBA talks: Television dollars and commitments." NBC's national network broadcasts "are reportedly scheduled to begin on Thanksgiving Friday." Should the "hard-line spit hit the fan and the October schedule is lost, both sides have to seriously target a Thanksgiving Friday start." Zipay: "Figure two weeks of training camp and a few exhibition games, so a deal would have to be in place by mid-November, about a month after the scheduled season debut" (NEWSDAY.com, 7/16).