Tuesday, July 31, 2007

ESPN and NHL are Talking

I never thought I'd see the day.
A return to ESPN could boost the league’s profile on the network’s news shows. According to an ESPN study of its 1 a.m. “SportsCenter” program, the show featured 29 fewer minutes of NHL coverage in March 2007 than in March 2004, the last year ESPN aired NHL games. That amounts to a 28 percent decline in hockey’s allotment of airtime, ESPN ombudsman Le Anne
Schreiber wrote in May.

The move would mark a change at Versus, as well, which is open to giving up its cable exclusivity if it can tap into ESPN’s marketing prowess. Over the past two years, Versus executives have complained privately that ESPN ignored their network. They are hoping for a situation that mirrors the NBA, where ESPN and TNT push viewers to each network’s games.

The league’s talks with ESPN come as it is negotiating with cable and satellite operators for carriage of its planned NHL Network and its out-of-market Center Ice package. Cable sources describe the negotiations as progressing smoothly, with the league taking a page from Major League Baseball by tying carriage of its planned channel with the renewal of Center Ice.
A possible return by the NHL to ESPN and the development of it's very own hockey channel? Somebody pinch me, I've got to be dreaming.


Jes Gőlbez said...

It's basically the NHL in desparate need of more eyeballs to see their games. ESPN has already treated the game like a leper, but they can give the league exposure that nobody else can.

I just hope VERSUS remains the prime partner, since they have given the NHL excellent service.

br. t. said...

Yeah, I totally agree Jes. I got a feeling Versus still will be the one doing most of the heavy lifting with ESPN thrown a limited number of key games and playoffs. That alone should be enough to at least get the NHL back on Sportscenter and some of the other news shows ESPN does which could go a looong ways in raising the legitimancy of the league from the depths it's fallen in the eyes of many fans.