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The Cable Battle

from the NY Times (reg. req.),
By returning from its near-death experience, the National Hockey League has acquired a bit of leverage, which may account for why ESPN2, Outdoor Life Network, Spike TV and USA Network are showing interest in its cable television rights. The first two are the most intriguing. The mother ship at ESPN sent the N.H.L. packing in May by refusing to execute its option to pay $60 million for the 2005-6 season, then demanding a no-fee revenue-sharing deal that the league rejected. ESPN acknowledged its continuing interest Tuesday, when Mark Shapiro, an executive vice president, said that he was looking for common ground with the league, and that a rights fee would be possible "as long as we got value in return." But he also reiterated that even with rules changes, the N.H.L. product was still damaged. A more fascinating play for the league is whether Commissioner Gary Bettman makes a deal with OLN - which used to be known as a hunting and fishing channel - after its recent success with the Tour de France. If OLN is willing to pay the N.H.L. any substantial cash, it is because its owner, the mammoth Comcast, would like to use hockey as a building block for a larger national sports network that would be anchored by eight late-season Thursday and Saturday N.F.L. games. In time, Comcast would presumably be well-financed competition for ESPN, to which Comcast's cable systems pay the industry's highest subscriber fee to carry.


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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

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.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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