KHL Signs Deal To Air Games On ESPN3; Alex Ovechkin Among Those To Be Featured
ESPN has "signed on to show KHL games featuring locked out NHL players" on ESPN3, a "curious move for a network that has largely shunned hockey ever since ending its broadcast agreement with the NHL nearly a decade ago," according to James Mirtle of the GLOBE & MAIL. It is a "sign that there may in fact be some value in showing games featuring its players during the lockout." ESPN3 is "picking up five KHL games in the next two weeks alone." So far, there "hasn't been a similar announcement from either TSN, Sportsnet or CBC" although that appears to "simply be a matter of time." The Canadian nets are "already picking up far more AHL content than ever before and are in negotiations to supplement that with other hockey programming like the KHL." The "biggest issue" with showing KHL games is the "same problem hockey runs into at the Winter Olympics: the time change." A "7 p.m. game in Moscow would be starting at 11 a.m. in Toronto, and that's one of the more favourable time zones in the league." The first five games ESPN plans to show beginning this week "will feature three appearances by Alex Ovechkin with his hometown team" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/3).
STAYING POWER? SI.com's Stu Hackel noted the plan is to "have English language commentary for these games, although just who will be sitting in Bristol and calling the game off a monitor has not been announced." It is "really unclear how many fans will actually tune in past their initial curiosity" (SI.com, 10/2). CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty wrote the "mere action of ESPN getting involved with a competing pro hockey league has to deepen the concern of [Gary] Bettman and the NHL owners -- no matter how mild it is -- that the hockey consumer is ready for life to go on without the NHL." In the age of "live-streaming video, satellite television and 100 percent coverage of everything under the sun on the Internet along with minor league and college hockey, diehard puck fans will find another outlet while the owners and players prepare for battle over a billion dollars" (CSNNE.com, 10/2).