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OLN Plans

from Broadcasting & Cable,

After beating out ESPN for TV rights to National Hockey League games, Comcast's OLN channel will be seeking higher license fees from cable and DBS operators when the many of the tiny network's carriage deals come up for renewal at the end of the year. “There’s no question that we believe we’re going to be expanding the number of homes [OLN is] available in, and I think when you add something like the NHL it’s fair to assume your affiliate fee will go up,” said Comcast COO Steve Burke, although he declined to specify the percentage of deals that will expire or how much Comcast will seek to increase subscription rates during carriage renewals. Under a deal finalized Tuesday, OLN agreed to pay some $65 million to telecast hockey’s upcoming season. It will run the first of the 58 regular-season games on Oct. 5 and run exclusive national games each Monday and Tuesday during the season, including some planned double-headers. The games will be followed by a wrap-up show, and OLN will seek to use other outlets including VOD and broadband to make game highlights widely available. OLN president Gavin Harvey called the NHL a “monumental acquisition” and a new “cornerstone franchise” for the network. OLN will also offer as many games as possible in HD. That could help appease fans already disgruntled by hockey’s strike who now have to seek out the sport through a new cable venue. It might also help account for a potential lessening of NHL coverage on ESPN, which devoted five nights a week to hockey wrap-up show NHL Tonight during hockey season when it aired the sport. It is yet to be determined just how much coverage the sport will now get on mega-sports network ESPN, which passed the option to match Comcast’s offer for the low-rated league. OLN's reach is far less than mighty ESPN or sibling ESPN2. For the summer to date, OLN averaged just 225,000 total viewers in prime time. ESPN, by contrast, average 1.25 million and ESPN2, 581,000 total viewers. OLN is also only available in 64 million homes (vs. ESPN's 90 million) and 10% of OLN's systems offer it only on a digital tier to a portion of its customers. That has not affected interest from advertisers, contends NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. “If you look out a couple of years looking back this will hopefully be a pivotal moment in the growth of OLN,” he said

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Cloutier Signs 2 Year Deal

via Sportsnet,

The Vancouver Canucks have locked up their goalie for the next two years. Sportsnet has learned goalie Dan Cloutier has signed a two-year deal worth $5 million. The official announcement is expected later today.

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Kings Sign Fukufuji

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from the AP via Yahoo,
Yutaka Fukufuji is ready to ride the buses in hockey's backwaters a few more years if that's what it takes to make the NHL. The Japanese goaltender signed a two-year contract with the Los Angeles Kings this month and will attend a rookie camp next month. "My goal is to play in the NHL," Fukufuji said at a news conference Thursday. "I know it will be tough, but I'm ready for rookie camp and I'm looking forward to taking on my rivals." While some have likened Fukufuji to baseball's Hideo Nomo, the soft-spoken goalie has other things on his mind than being a pioneer.

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Caps Make Offer to Bondra

via TSN,

With a dearth of proven talent on the roster, the Washington Capitals may be addressing the problem by turning back the clock. According to the Washington Times, the Capitals extended a contract offer to right wing Peter Bondra, the franchise's all-time leading scorer. Bondra, 37, spent his entire 13-season NHL career with the Caps before he was sent to Ottawa on Feb. 18, 2004, for center Brooks Laich.

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The New Partnership

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OLN, a television leader in action and adventure sports, and the National Hockey League (NHL) today announced that OLN will be the new national cable television home for the NHL. Under the terms of the multi-year agreement, OLN will televise at least 58 regular-season games. These games will air consistently on Monday and Tuesday nights and be exclusive to the network. OLN will carry the NHL All-Star Game exclusively in the US and will provide wall-to-wall coverage throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including exclusive Conference Final action and the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final. OLN will kick off NHL coverage beginning with the Rangers-Flyers match-up October 5, the first day of the new season. OLN and the NHL will bring television viewers closer to the ice by leveraging the League's new telecast enhancements -- increased behind-the-scenes access, microphones on the players and coaches, netcams and in-game interviews. The partnership between OLN, Comcast and the NHL will redefine the sport for hockey viewers. More action on video on demand (VOD), in HDTV and online will create an experience like never before, including: * VOD game highlights and library footage of hockey's greatest moments with full fast-forward, rewind and replay capability; * HDTV game coverage in a crisper, faster-moving, more exciting game for hockey fans every week; * Online streaming of two live games per night (subject to local blackout), broadband highlights, commentary, and library footage; * Round-the-clock coverage on the NHL Network, to be launched in the US in the future; and * Comcast will have the ability to carry and/or syndicate additional games on Comcast's regional sports networks where it has the consent of the local team and team's rights holder. "We are entering into a great partnership with the NHL. Hockey is excellent, exclusive programming for OLN and will be a marquee sport for the network. We are proud to be the new national television home of the NHL when the puck drops on October 5," said OLN President Gavin Harvey. "Adding hockey to our lineup when the NHL returns to the ice with a fresh season, new energy, new players and a new attitude adds tremendous value to OLN and builds upon the momentum of our other premier sports programming like the America's Cup and The Tour de France." "We recognize and appreciate that Comcast is making a tremendous investment in the NHL and that hockey will be a priority on OLN," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "This multifaceted partnership with OLN and Comcast creates exciting opportunities for our fans and for us, and we look forward to a terrific relationship in the years ahead." The NHL revised its schedule format, to emphasize divisional and conference rivalries, and implemented a number of changes that will reduce the number of play stoppages while heightening hockey's action, flow, offense and excitement. The attacking zone has been enlarged, and the goaltenders have been limited -- not only in the size of the equipment they will be allowed to wear but also in the areas of the ice where they will be allowed to play the puck. As well, the introduction of the shootout as a tiebreaker, featuring hockey's most exciting play, the breakaway, will ensure that every contest has a winner. "Comcast's leadership and innovation in delivering integrated sports and other entertainment on HDTV, VOD and on the Internet is being met with rave reviews from our customers. We will use this experience to bring the NHL to hockey fans in ways that they have never seen before," said Jeff Shell, President of Comcast Programming for Comcast Corporation. Additional details about the OLN television schedule, hockey commentators, HDTV and VOD schedules will be released as details become available.

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OLN Deal

I have been doing a little research on the new NHL TV contract, and have been told INHD will be broadcasting the HD games. OLN HD which will be premiering in September will only be a video on demand service. Also, HDNET does not have any NHL games scheduled at this point and since they are in direct competition with INHD, they may not retain the rights to televise the NHL this year. The NHL Network will be available to US Comcast subscribers who have the digital package. On-line streaming may be a year away from going live but may become a reality a bit sooner.

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Zubrus Re-signs with Caps

The Washington Capitals have re-signed forward Dainius Zubrus to a two-year contract, vice president and general manager George McPhee announced today. In keeping with club policy, terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

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ESPN Could Not Match OLN

from Broadcast and Cable,

ESPN’s decision not to match Comcast’s offer for the NHL television package may have been a result of more than just a high rights fee. According to sources, Comcast’s deal with the NHL to put the games on OLN also includes the genesis of an NHL network in the U.S., for which Comcast can assure distribution to 21 million cable households. The deal also includes a clause that the cable network carrying hockey will have to air the games on its primary sports network. Those may have been deal breakers for ESPN, who first of all would not want to put the low-rated NHL on its main network, but would rather show the games on ESPN2. And unlike cable operator Comcast, ESPN does not have the ability to guarantee carriage for a startup channel. As for the OLN deal, sources said Comcast offered to pay $65 million the first year, $70 million the second year, and an option for a third year at $72.5 million. (The previous deal was $60 million annually, a price at which ESPN previously turned down an option). Both sides have the option to pull out after the second year, including an NHL option to back out and shop for a new partner if OLN does not reach a guaranteed number of households by that time. Further backing the talk that Comcast is shaping OLN to become a more mainstream sports network, sources said the company is sniffing around for smaller rights packages for big sports, including the Sunday-Wednesday baseball package currently held by ESPN, which expires this season. Sources said OLN is a possible outlet for the package should ESPN not renew. ESPN also has a separate deal to air a limited amount of post-season baseball in a deal that came to Disney when the company purchased the Fox Family Channel, which held the rights. That deal expires at the end of next season. OLN has also been mentioned as a possible suitor for a proposed Thursday-Saturday package of NFL games, although it remains to be seen whether such a package will be created by the league

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Wooing the Fans

from the Mercury News,

A free autographed puck to one fan every time Dallas scores at home. A Luc Robitaille-signed jersey to season-ticket holders in Los Angeles. Dollar hot dogs in Nashville. A barbecue with the Bruins in Boston. Five-hundred free tickets to each of 15 Tuesday night games in Montreal. Sacre bleu! NHL teams are romancing their fans. Hey, Tampa Bay's season-ticket holders even get a re-engagement ring -- a replica of the one Lightning players earned for winning the 2004 Stanley Cup. It's all part of each team's marketing effort after the first work stoppage in history to wipe out an entire pro sports season. Each franchise devised its own strategy, and most started with a rollback in ticket prices. The Sharks are among the teams that lowered prices, an average of 10 percent for season tickets and 6.5 percent for single games. But beyond that, they've been relatively quiet while other teams have announced a host of giveaways, gimmicks and special events. ``Some teams may make more of a quick splash,'' said Malcolm Bordelon, the Sharks' executive vice president of business operations. ``Our preference is to spread it throughout the year.'' Still, it won't be business as usual on opening night.

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Hockey Hall of Fame a Dream

from Town Online,

With hockey being a huge part of my family, I was invited on a trip to Toronto two weeks ago to see the Hockey Hall of Fame. Soon enough, my bags were packed and I was on my way up north. Having never been to a Hall of Fame before, I had no idea of what to expect. With all the traveling done, I was finally in Toronto. We had gotten to our campsite outside the city around 9 p.m. and had to wait another day to go to the Hall of Fame. The night passed and we headed to the city the next day at around 3:45. Using public transportation and our "great navigational skills" we had arrived at the Hall of Fame at 5.

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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.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com

 

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