Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 07/20/05 at 12:27 AM ET
As the NHL seems ready to play games again, it has no national U.S. cable TV deal. An idea: Put games, with players and coaches miked live, on ad-free HBO, where anything goes with on-air expletives. "That's intriguing," HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg says. "The only issues would be how much (money) they'd want and the games' significance. I'm not sure regular-season games would have the heat we'd need. But if they gave us an open book, we'd fill the pages." Don't laugh. The NHL, which got microscopic national U.S. TV ratings before it shut down, needs TV for more than money. It needs TV to climb out of its hole. ESPN, in May, passed on renewing its NHL TV rights for $60 million annually and proved it could live without hockey by averaging 0.8% of U.S. cable TV households for hastily assembled shows that replaced the NHL playoffs — which had averaged just 0.7% in 2004. "We're interested in doing a deal," says ESPN senior vice president David Berson, adding ESPN wants the NHL to change its rules so games can't end tied. "But we're proceeding with alternate plans. If we're going to do a deal, it needs to be sooner rather than later."
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