Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 09/17/12 at 01:17 AM ET
Oh, Ed Snider. Phiadelphia Flyers owner. One of Gary Bettman's chief lieutenants, along with Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold. Shea Weber bidder. Comcast chairman, and now, big stakeholder in NBC Universal. Snider's initial sports network offering, Comcast Sportsnet affiliates excluded, was Versus, and now USA Today's Michael Hiestand reports that the rebranded NBC Sports Network is kinda sorta screwed thanks to the lockout Snider so ardently supports:
At least one NHL owner really has to hope the NHL lockout ends soon.
As the owner of the NHL's Philadephia Flyers, Comcast Corp. might want the NHL to be tough in talks with the league's players, who were locked out at midnight Saturday. But Comcast execs are entitled to mixed emotions: The company's NBC Sports Network cable channel could end up taking an untimely hit if the season is severely delayed or canceled.
Not that the NHL delivers big national TV ratings to Comcast's NBC outlets. NBC's dozen regular-season NHL games last year averaged 1% of U.S. households -- about as low as regular-season broadcast ratings get -- while NBCSN's 90 games drew 0.2% of cable TV homes.Yikes.
But after Versus (which previously had been the Outdoor Life Network) was rebranded as NBCSN in January, the channel was supposed to get a boost in exposure as one of NBC's London Olympic platforms. That happened, as the women's Olympic soccer final on NBCSN drew more viewers--4.3 million -- than any of last year's NHL playoff games. The Games were supposed to serve as a lead-in to the channel in general and to what NBCSN programming head Jon Miller has called "our most important property" -- NHL games.
NBC/NBCSN last year started a10-year NHL deal -- in which it will pay at least $1.8 billion -- for games that will at least create plenty of TV tonnage. Coverage on NBCSN, which was supposed to carry at least 90-plus games, is scheduled to start with an Oct. 11 Boston-Philadelphia/St. Louis-Colorado doubleheader. (Hey, what a lucky break that the Flyers get to be in the opener!) NBC's coverage does not start until Nov. 23.
Said NBC spokesman Chris McCloskey on Sunday: "We are preparing a selection of replacement programming that includes soccer, boxing, original programming, and college football, basketball and hockey."
Given that NBCSN's NHL ratings are so close to zero, it shouldn't be too hard for NBCSN to replace hockey audiences. When the NHL's post-season was cancelled in 2005, ESPN came up with a hodgepodge of fill-ins -- whose ratings were comparable to playoff hockey. But given NBCSN's long-term plan to get as least close to top-of-mind among sports viewers, this is a bad time to be throwing together a big dinner with leftovers.
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