NHL Lockout, Day 12: Television Networks Could Lose Big If Work Stoppage Persists
Television networks "stand to lose broadcasts that attract millions of viewers and generate millions of dollars in advertising revenue" if the NHL lockout carries into the regular season, according to Monte Stewart of the CP. CBC President & CEO Hubert Lacroix "acknowledged this week that a delayed or cancelled season would be 'a cash flow challenge for us.'" Lacroix said the CBC has replacement programming, but it is "still not fully clear how networks will fill the void created by a lockout." Stewart noted during previous lockouts, networks "aired more major junior and American Hockey League games." However, "HNIC" play-by-play announcer Jim Hughson said that the "ratings and revenues do not justify the production costs, which are about on par with NHL telecasts." TSN VP & Exec Producer of Live Events Paul Graham said that his network "is not worried about what will happen in the short-term because it has plenty of programming tied to CFL, NBA, NASCAR and other events." TSN also could "expand its slate to include additional live events, news, talk shows and documentaries." A TSN spokesperson said that some "potential additions include expanded Major League Soccer playoff coverage, more NFL programming and increased world junior hockey championship coverage." The CBC and Sportsnet reps said that with their first regular-season telecasts "not scheduled until Oct. 11 ... their networks are taking a wait-and-see approach and will be prepared to roll out a different programming plan if necessary." Stewart noted Hughson is "not worried that lost games will harm long-term ratings in Canada," but he "is concerned about the potential lasting impact on American TV ratings." Hughson is "worried the NHL will lose audience gains that resulted largely from a new NBC contract, the annual Winter Classic game played outdoors and the HBO documentary '24/7'" (CP, 9/26).
GAME OF WHAT IF: ADWEEK's Anthony Crupi wrote analysts only need to look "at the Nielsen ratings to assess how crucial hockey is" to NBC Sports Network. Although the net's NHL "deliveries remain modest ... those numbers are a huge improvement when compared with periods in which the net is hockey-free." Despite the "inevitable loss of GRPs and advertising dollars it faces in the event of a prolonged work stoppage, NBC will still be on the hook for its $200 million annual rights fee." If the entire season "is a wash, the NHL will be obliged to tack on an extra year after NBC's contract expires in 2021, at no additional cost to the network." NBC and NBCSN last season "generated $150 million in NHL inventory" (ADWEEK.com, 9/24).
WHEELS IN MOTION: In Toronto, Lance Hornby cites a report that German-based UFA Sports Agency, which represents the KHL’s marketing arm outside Eastern Europe, is "hearing from ... North American broadcasters facing a huge hole in their hockey programming." Sportsnet's John Shannon "wonders how quickly the KHL novelty would wear off on these shores." He said, "There’s a curiosity, but just a curiosity. I don’t think it will turn people’s cranks. Shannon: "There's an old adage that sport is tribal. People watch the Leafs because they’re the Leafs. I’m not sure how many Magnitogorsk fans there are. ... I think there is a chance for better success with special events, such as the Memorial Cup and world junior tournament" (TORONTO SUN, 9/27). Meanwhile, ESPN's "SportsCenter" this morning showed highlights of Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin in his first KHL game (THE DAILY).
EUROPEAN GAINS: In Vancouver, Tony Gallagher notes there are dozens of NHL players signed to play in the KHL during the lockout, and if the NHL "keeps turning a blind eye to what's happening over there, they may find all the work they've done cultivating the game in Europe being capitalized on by this expanding league hungry for a long-term fix to what is now their unsustainable business plan." A European television contract is "really the only barrier that stands in the way of the KHL being a long-term financially viable operation." What this "influx of NHL talent is doing for the league now is essentially showing potential Western European owners and television executive what might be possible some day if they could get their act together." The NHL is "naive if they think Western Europe isn't next on the KHL agenda" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 9/27).