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NHL Ratings Not Expected To Increase After Olympic Games

from John Ourand of SportsBusiness Daily,

With the NHL scheduled to resume its season this week, executives close to the sport are monitoring whether an Olympic halo effect will draw more interest to the league. But based on a review of TV ratings from past years, analysts say the NHL should not expect much of an Olympic bounce — a situation that could reinforce the question about whether the league will allow its players to participate in future Olympic Games.

“An NHL ratings bump from the Olympics has never happened before,” said Horizon Media research director Brad Adgate. “They have two different allegiances. The Olympics is event programming: a live sporting event that’s on a global stage with national pride at stake. The NHL hasn’t reached that level yet.”

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Comments

Red Winger's avatar

Those arguing for continued NHL participation in the Olympics are behind the curve now, for a few reasons:

1) the ratings bounce may not even exist

2) The games are in South Korea next time, with a worse time differential than Sochi

3) An NHL team has lost its franchise player due to his participation in the Olympics

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 02/24/14 at 11:21 AM ET

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Alternate headline:

“NHL Ratings Not Expected To Increase After _____.”

Posted by HockeyinHD on 02/24/14 at 11:27 AM ET

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Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 02/24/14 at 10:21 AM ET

I agree with your on your points, but I think the issue is that the players themselves really want this. And I think the league and fans have to respect that.

Posted by George0211 on 02/24/14 at 11:29 AM ET

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Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 02/24/14 at 10:21 AM ET

All posted from a fan’s perspective. If it were only about the fans/owners, then players wouldn’t be allowed to golf in the offseason (hello Giroux/E. Johnson). Lets just put the players in cryo sleep and only wake them up for NHL games.

Next stop: robots!

Posted by fromdowntown on 02/24/14 at 11:35 AM ET

Red Winger's avatar

Posted by fromdowntown on 02/24/14 at 10:35 AM ET

Golfing in the off-season is vastly different than shutting down a league for three weeks in mid-season

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 02/24/14 at 11:38 AM ET

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A classic case of selfish fans, who only want what is best for their interests/their teams. Yawn. I’ve grown tired of it.

Posted by fromdowntown on 02/24/14 at 11:46 AM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

The NHL would only get a “ratings bump” from the Olympics if casual fans became more interested in hockey because of the games they saw. No casual fan was going to be watching Olympic hockey at 7:30 in the morning (or even at noon).

All of the Olympic hockey games should have been shown on tape in prime time. Casual fans wouldn’t know the score because, well, precisely because they’re casual fans. Then the NHL might have gotten a “bump” this week (and maybe for the rest of the season).

As for the idea of not allowing players to go to the Olympics (even though they want to go)? That’s called protecting your investment. It’s what businesses do all the time. And there’s nothing “selfish” about that at all.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 02/24/14 at 12:04 PM ET

Paul's avatar

OTC, I can understand the owners wanting to protect their investment, but then they should not allow them to play in a World Cup or any other idea the NHL comes up with.

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 02/24/14 at 12:07 PM ET

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Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 02/24/14 at 11:07 AM ET

Well, I think there’s a couple things at play. Someone brought up the issue that there are financial-related matters in play that are not really in the public eye. The Olympics vs. World Cup might have a lot to do with that.

The other thing is that the World Cup might be able to be scheduled in September or even in the Summer, rather than shutting down during the middle of the season. Or, the World Cup could be a shorter shutdown, potentially.

Posted by VitoLambruski on 02/24/14 at 12:20 PM ET

Paul's avatar

Uhderstood VL, it is about the money.

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 02/24/14 at 12:21 PM ET

SnLO's avatar

“NHL Ratings Not Expected To Increase After _____.”

This made me laugh…so true

the idea of not allowing players to go to the Olympics…there’s nothing “selfish” about that at all.
I disagree. I find that idea to be the epitome of selfish: infringing someone’s self-interest for the benefit of one’s own personal gain. Yeah, screw what they want as long as I get ahead.

The Olympics are an event that happen only every four years; and that is what it is: an event. Player participation should be unilaterally acceptable. Especially with insurance, the “investment” is protected against loss and principal remains whole. No one is forcing the league to shut down either, they do so out of choice.

Posted by SnLO from the sub great-white north on 02/24/14 at 12:24 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

A classic case of selfish fans, who only want what is best for their interests/their teams. Yawn. I’ve grown tired of it.

Posted by fromdowntown on 02/24/14 at 10:46 AM ET

Hopefully you’re not tired enough to provide examples of how my earlier three points are not valid.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 02/24/14 at 12:26 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

Should Charles Wang be selfish that his business investment has now been compromised to a degree? Perhaps.

Where is all this talk of selfishness coming from? I’m arguing from a standpoint of looking at the facts as they exist.

NHL players survived before NHL participation in the Olympics, I’m sure they could do so again.

What about the selfishness of those who want to see the professionals at the Olympics at the expense of amateur participation? Do the feelings of amateurs play a part here, if we’re going to centralize the argument around feelings?

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 02/24/14 at 12:31 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Do the feelings of amateurs play a part here, if we’re going to centralize the argument around feelings?

Unless the IOC decrees that they go back to strictly amateur status for all athletes at the games, no, their feelings do not play in on the NHL and NHLPA’s decision as to send players.

All said, the concept about how the islanders lost Tavares to the Olympics and that’s bad financial news for them terribly glosses over that the Islanders are better off financially from Tavares having suffered this problem at the Olympics than if it had randomly struck during an NHL game. The IOC paid for contract insurance on Tavares and the Isles are being paid his salary.

Granted, they’d rather have him in the lineup and they’re going to lose out on money for the rest of the season because people aren’t going to go to as many Isles games without Tavares, but any pretense that this wouldn’t have happened if the Isles were playing regular games is a bit far-fetched.  Take the equal situations where a guy definitely gets hurt one way or another and NHL owners would rather it happen during the Olympics where somebody else’s dime agrees to pay that guy’s salary for the end of the year.

I digress. It’s a moot point anyway because I don’t really care about the owners as far as they feel robbed of their almighty dollars when the league shuts down for the Olympics and I care only about the players’ desire to go represent their countries as much as they’re willing to give up for that privilege.

The NHL will do just fine whether or not they shut down for the Olympics every four years.  While we’re being selfish, I selfishly only care about how much I’m going to enjoy watching hockey during the Olympics.

Based on this experience, I’d prefer if the NHL didn’t shut down in 2018.  The time differentials were brutal for Sochi and will be worse for Pyeongchang.  The quality of games wasn’t nearly as exciting either.

In 2018, I’d prefer the choice as to whether to wake up at weird hours to watch amateurs play while I know that every night I’m going to get to watch NHL action while NBC or whatever network fumbles over how to cover what already happened tomorrow in the Olympics during primetime.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 02/24/14 at 12:54 PM ET

SK77's avatar

Just out of curiosity—what would constitute amateur status? Where would these players be from and where would they regularly play / train?

I’m not sure watching third-tier players is my idea of “Olympic” hockey. If Sochi had featured sub-AHL quality there’s no way I would have paid any attention.

Posted by SK77 on 02/24/14 at 01:03 PM ET

LivinLaVidaLockout's avatar

Those arguing for continued NHL participation in the Olympics are behind the curve now, for a few reasons:

1) the ratings bounce may not even exist

2) The games are in South Korea next time, with a worse time differential than Sochi

3) An NHL team has lost its franchise player due to his participation in the Olympics
   
    Posted by
     
    Red Winger
   
    from Sault Ste Marie on 02/24/14 at 10:21 AM ET

Whatever, I have enjoyed watching NHL players play in the Olympics once every four years since 1998.  I understand, you don’t want to send players when some will inevatibly end up hurt, but I look at it like Mitch Hedberg put it:

I like to drink red wine. This girl says “Doesn’t red wine give you a headache?” “Yeah, eventually! But the first and the middle part are amazing.” I’m not gonna stop doing something ‘cause of what’s gonna happen at the end. “Mitch, you want an apple?” “No, eventually it’ll be a core.”

If the players are into it, I’d like to see them continue playing as well.

Posted by LivinLaVidaLockout on 02/24/14 at 01:27 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

I might be alone in this, but I still think it is beyond silly that the Olympics allow professional athletes to compete in the games. I’m opposed to the continued participation, for different reasons.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 02/24/14 at 01:45 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

For those of you that wonder what the Olympics may look like if we go back to amateurs, maybe the WJC can give us a sneak peek, and that tournament is full of great hockey.

Of course others will be involved, some of the better collegiate and CHL players.

I think a very entertaining tournament would be the result

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 02/24/14 at 02:02 PM ET

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No casual fan was going to be watching Olympic hockey at 7:30 in the morning (or even at noon).

I don’t believe the 4.8 million, a ratings record, who watched Russia-U.S. at 7:30 on a Saturday morning for a round-robin game on a cable channel that not everyone gets would agree with you.  Nor would the 787,000 more who watched it online.  Nor would the hundreds of thousands more in the U.S. who watched it on CBC

Posted by jkm2011 on 02/24/14 at 02:04 PM ET

Paul's avatar

RW, I have no problem with that, but do you think the European nations would agree to those terms for their own country?

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 02/24/14 at 02:04 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

RW, I have no problem with that, but do you think the European nations would agree to those terms for their own country?

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 02/24/14 at 01:04 PM ET

That’s the kicker: how much the Euro scene has changed since the last time amateurs participated.  It would take some salesmanship, that’s for sure.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 02/24/14 at 02:13 PM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

OTC, I can understand the owners wanting to protect their investment, but then they should not allow them to play in a World Cup or any other idea the NHL comes up with.

Posted by Paul

You’re right. They shouldn’t.

The NHL is a business. And its business involves hiring professional hockey players to put on hockey games in the US and Canada. Stopping an NHL season for three weeks because those (highly) paid professionals want to go and play someplace else for free is just nonsense. No other professional sport does this – and neither should the NHL.

the idea of not allowing players to go to the Olympics…there’s nothing “selfish” about that at all.

I disagree. I find that idea to be the epitome of selfish: infringing someone’s self-interest for the benefit of one’s own personal gain. Yeah, screw what they want as long as I get ahead.

Posted by SnLO

I know you’re talking about the NHL owners, but you’ve actually just described what the players are doing. They’re saying: “Screw the business that pays me, I want to go play for my country for free. They’ll just have to put their business on hold until I get back.” Now that’s selfish.

No casual fan was going to be watching Olympic hockey at 7:30 in the morning (or even at noon).

I don’t believe the 4.8 million, a ratings record, who watched Russia-U.S. at 7:30 on a Saturday morning for a round-robin game on a cable channel that not everyone gets would agree with you.

Posted by jkm2011

Common sense alone would tell you that the percentage of those 4.8 million viewers who are “casual fans” would be extremely small. Unless you have evidence showing there was a substantial number of casual fans watching that game, I’m going to stick with common sense on this point.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 02/24/14 at 02:56 PM ET

alwaysaurie's avatar

Those arguing for continued NHL participation in the Olympics are behind the curve now, for a few reasons:

Posted by Red Winger

Those who think the NHL will not go in 2018 overlook:

* NBC owns the NHL contract,
* NBC wants NHL players to boost their Olympic ratings, and
* NBC has a huge amount of clout over the NHL.

I’m confused by those who say the time differential will be worse next time. What’s worse than 4am/7am games? What time could the S.Korean games be at that’s any worse?

Posted by alwaysaurie on 02/24/14 at 03:37 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I’m confused by those who say the time differential will be worse next time. What’s worse than 4am/7am games? What time could the S.Korean games be at that’s any worse?

The majority of the watchable games from Sochi were at 7am or noon, which is eminently more doable than the 14-hour time difference between Pyeonchang and the Eastern time zone.

the only games from there that would be anywhere near a watchable hour would be noon games, which would be airing at 10pm the day before for the large portion of North America’s audience. 

To even get a “beneficial” 7am start time, they’d have to drop the puck at 9pm in Korea.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 02/24/14 at 03:52 PM ET

Paul's avatar

One thing brought up on Toronto radio today was Canada as a nation would not be very happy if the NHL says no to 2018.

Why, well the Canadian team would be going for three gold medals in a row.  It may not be a big thing to other countries, but to Canadians, it is.

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 02/24/14 at 04:27 PM ET

Guilherme's avatar

I have a question: what “ratings” does the author refers to?

NHL ratings in North America wont rise, that’s kind of obvious. Most of those who watched the Olympics already are already NHL fans.

(“Oh, but they drew record rating for that one game in the Olympics”)

Probably because every NHL fan was watching, instead of only two fanbases. The rest of the watches was formed by people who only watch Olympic sports, once every four years.

But if you’re talking foreign ratings? They will increase, I’m absolutely sure of it.

ESPN had the NHL until the 2004 lockout, then it was wasn’t show again until right after the Vancouver games. I’m a weirdo, always followed the NHL, but in 2010 I had four or five people talking to me about whatever hockey game was on the previous night.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 02/24/14 at 04:28 PM ET

RockWestfall711's avatar

Want TV ratings to increase?  OPEN THE GAME UP!  A self described “3-2 shutdown league” does not have mass appeal.  Engineer more offense into the game and develop rules that make “shut down” hockey more difficult and “good” defense being a team that allows 3 goals per game instead of 1. 

Start with bigger nets and 4 on 4 to take into account the evolution of the today’s MUCH LARGER players and XL goaltenders.  Watch a game from the Orr era, there was room to create and lots of net to shoot at, unlike today.

A guy watching the NBA that sees 1-0 and 0-0 3rd period NHL scores on the crawl is not going to pick up his remote to change to NHL games.

Imaging the ratings bump with a NHL that was headlined as “wide open” and “high scoring.”....

Posted by RockWestfall711 from Las Vegas on 02/24/14 at 06:09 PM ET

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One thing brought up on Toronto radio today was Canada as a nation would not be very happy if the NHL says no to 2018.

A corollary:

http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=693152

“The 12-year agreement, announced jointly by the NHL and Rogers in a Tuesday morning press conference, is for $5.232 billion (Canadian). It’s the largest media rights deal in NHL history and one of the largest media rights deals in Canadian history. It is also Canada’s largest sports-media rights agreement.”

Yes, this is ultimately about money.  Bettman will do the slow walk on this to get the IOC to foot the insurance bill and he’ll use feigned capitulation on this (which he was always going to do anyway) to drag a concession or two out of the players, if they actually want to do this that bad.

He plays chess with all these off ice things while a whole lot of other people are playing checkers.  He’s a douche, but he wins all of these things.  Every time.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 02/24/14 at 06:49 PM ET

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He plays chess with all these off ice things while a whole lot of other people are playing checkers.  He’s a douche, but he wins all of these things.  Every time.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 02/24/14 at 05:49 PM ET

This might be a difficult pill for a lot of people to swallow, but Gary Bettman’s tenure, when it’s all said and done, will be a lot more difficult to assess than it appears. For most people, he is an obvious villain and his reputation has already been set in stone as such.

My belief is that the truth about his success is a lot more complicated to assess and, if the current trajectory of the league (and revenues, viewership, etc.) continues, it will become even more difficult to assess him. On the one hand, he’s overseen three lockouts (including one cancelled season), which should be unacceptable to many, as well as a game that can be exciting at times, but has, over his tenure, been both a fast-paced, scoring game, and a grinding-halt trap game, and everything in between. Many would prefer more scoring, league-wide. The last killer on his detractor list, which is probably the worst of all, is the questionable expansion strategy, especially considering the number of teams routinely in the red.

On the other hand, from a business perspective, he has in fact created a model that is generating bigger and bigger revenues and is creating good value from the owners’ perspective, for the most part. His acumen as a businessman (and in HiHD’s example) has been demonstrated on multiple occasions.

I am not sold on whether his legacy will go down as awful as most people believe.

Posted by VitoLambruski on 02/24/14 at 07:38 PM ET

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I am not sold on whether his legacy will go down as awful as most people believe.

He’s an acolyte of David Stern.  He has largely aped Stern’s strategy in all things with the exception of player discipline, where Stern has been far more aggressive.  To that end, both guys have had decidedly questionable impacts on the on-ice/court aspects of their respective sports , where they have next to no real insight or experience had hugely successful off ice/court endeavors, where their skills are much more evident, and both have been bailed out by having transcendent stars enter their leagues.

At the end of the day, fans of the sports will view both guys with distrust bordering on disdain, while people who admire their more panoramic accomplishments will respect them much more highly.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 02/24/14 at 09:17 PM ET

RockWestfall711's avatar

He has made the NHL billions but is clueless about the game itself.  Proof that he likely never watched a game on TV before the lost season is that he actually allowed the dead puck era to get his league kicked off ESPN.  Although today’s game is faster and with less obstruction he is still clueless about the low scoring “3-2 shutdown” marquee having no mass appeal.  An in touch commish would DEMAND a more open and exciting game that fans actually want,

Just a bean counting New York lawyer,

Posted by RockWestfall711 from Las Vegas on 02/24/14 at 09:36 PM ET

SnLO's avatar

I know you’re talking about the NHL owners, but you’ve actually just described what the players are doing. They’re saying: “Screw the business that pays me, I want to go play for my country for free. They’ll just have to put their business on hold until I get back.” Now that’s selfish.

Where I come from putting service to your country before personal gain is called sacrifice. Yes it maybe a little selfish to be willing to sacrifice a career for the opprotunity to represent your country for Olympic competition, and sometimes a little personal glory with success, but it’s the league that chooses to shut down. It’s the clubs that don’t write into player contracts to not compete in non-club sanctioned games. Hockey is a game that conveniently becomes a business when it suits the owners. They made their choices, they don’t need any exceptional favor. They don’t need me trying to protect their interests. They already have an army of lawyers and a Federal government bent on that. I here for the entertainment. Let it roll.
I don’t know for certain, but I suspect the MLS is going to shut down for the World Cup this summer, and there is discussion to move the Qatar World Cup to winter due summer heat and possibly shutting down the European leagues for the event. So is maybe not so exclusive to the NHL.

Posted by SnLO from the sub great-white north on 02/25/14 at 01:38 PM ET

RockWestfall711's avatar

As a paying consumer of the NHL I think that the Olympics, the condensed schedule, the extra games, the potential locker room splits and friction, (see Martin St. Louis), damage the product that I am paying full price for.

Do a CANADA CUP each year AFTER the Stanley Cup and be done with it.  That would not break up the season nor would it compete with football TV in the fall.  And injured players would have the summer to heal.

NHL fans should get discounts on subscriptions, tickets, and swag for the lesser quality hockey that the Olympics will cause.

Posted by RockWestfall711 from Las Vegas on 02/25/14 at 02:10 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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