Tuesday, July 19, 2005

ESPN, TNT or Spike?

Mediaweek is reporting that four companies are in talks with the NHL for the right to broadcast games on cable. The companies are ESPN, Time Warner (TNT), Viacom (Spike TV) and Comcast. Comcast is a bad choice. Comcast is not in many homes and the NHL would end up being on OLN (Outdoor Life Network).

There are positives and negatives to each of the three other companies. First, Spike TV may feel like a marginal network, but it's not. It reaches over 86 million U.S. households they would heavily promote the NHL. Spike would push games hard and really give them the gala treatment. Also, bringing in the ESPN hockey guys to do the games would not be a problem; Darren Pang has already stated he is treating this like he is a "free agent" and will go where he can do games. Spike is also in Canada, so that would not be a problem. Some people have noted that Spike does not have HD capability, but I rather a network that actually wants the NHL rather than HD. HD might be the wave of the future, but it is currently not in many living rooms.

ESPN is the status quo. While the NHL might get buried on ESPN, Bristol is still the leading sports broadcaster in the world. Everyone gets ESPN, including people on other continents. And yes, ESPN had HD channels.

Then there is TNT. TNT could use something else to show besides Law & Order. (I don't care if L&O gets better ratings than the NHL, can people still watch the same episode seven times? Eventually TNT is going to run out of episodes to show.) TNT has also done a great job with the NBA. There is one problem though. How would they handle programming when the NHL is in the second and third rounds of the playoffs and the NBA is just starting? This needs to be clarified before they are awarded the rights.

For me, Spike, ESPN and TNT all would be fine choices. ESPN is the safe bet, that will probably end up in mediocre ratings. Spike is riskier but could do great things for the NHL. And TNT is a solid choice, as long as the playoff situation is cleared up. One thing is for sure, it cannot go to Comcast. That would be a disaster.

Thanks to "Invader Zim" at the HFBoards for the heads up.

Edit: I made a mistake and said that Turner as in Ted Turner owns TNT. It's Time Warner, and I was confused by the Turner in TNT. I fixed the problem with my story. Thanks to Boltsmag for linking to my story and for pointing out the mistake.