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The NHL’s European TV Mess

27 Sep

This blog celebrates its three month birthday today, so thanks for reading and making it grow so quickly. At its launch, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to write about. Even now, I still experiment with posts. I have found that the business of hockey posts draw very few hits while opinion and media news pieces bring in the most. At the beginning, I had no idea how I was going to draw people here. I got lucky with some breaking news. First, this site was one of the first to announce Jeff Marek’s departure from CBC. That drew a good amount of hits and was a good start. But then something bigger came along. It’s something that still draws a good amount of hits, tweets and e-mails. It was a little story about the NHL selling its international broadcasting rights. Believe it or not, that post is the most popular in this site’s short history. But what’s really sad is that the NHL’s international TV future is just as unknown today as it was three months ago.


We are nearly a week away from the start of the 2011-12 season yet NHL fans across Europe have no idea where to find games. All they hear are rumors, hearsay, and cut and paste e-mails. It’s a massive failure by the NHL and its new rights holders, AMI/Medge. All the parties have been secretive about what’s going on and even today, some fans are still not aware of the potential of a blackout across Europe. Fans have started to rally, desperate for information. They tweet, send e-mails to the NHL and have even started a Facebook group. Even with all that, nobody is talking. It’s a terrible way to treat your loyal fans and they deserve better. So, let’s spread the blame and try to get to the bottom of this.

  1. The NHL has continued to fail at all levels when it comes to telling their international fans about what’s going on. The NHL’s own website never mentioned that ESPN had lost the rights. They’ve often ignored inquiries by fans about where to find games. Only now have they started to state that fans will get access to NHL Gamecenter Live. That’s good news but they fail to tell anyone any official details about it. Nothing about cost, features, when you can sign up, etc. Nothing. How hard is it to get that information out there? There does not seem to be a website or anything official so fans can only hope and wait or just give up and get a VPN or go the illegal route. Either way, it’s driving fans wild and the league needs to do a better job in communications. It appears that the league has its head in the sand about all this and either doesn’t realize how many fans are mad about this or just doesn’t care.
  2. AMI/Medge appears to be a very cryptic pairing. AMI doesn’t have a working website and it’s very hard to find any information about it. Medge has a sparse website but it doesn’t tell much about them and it’s pretty much useless if you’re looking for information about the future of NHL games. There aren’t any social media accounts for these companies. Fans are obviously frustrated by this since they don’t know where to turn for information. I’m sure that AMI/Medge is working hard and negotiating but their lack of social media savvy is hurting them. They need to come out publicly and state things and have more interaction with the fans. Right now fans don’t trust them but a little communication would change that by leaps and bounds.
  3. The media has done a poor job on reporting this. My little blog is one of the few places to find any information about this which is why it draws so many hits about this. Fans have tried to tweet and e-mail major mainstream hockey journalists and personalities but their queries are usually ignored. Now, I understand there’s little reason for a Canadian writer to try to figure this out but I’m surprised that nobody has done any reporting on this. Hockey has a loyal fan base in Europe and with so many European players in the league and the NHL Premiere games around the corner, you’d think someone somewhere would find this to be a big deal but apparently not. Outside of a Swedish newspaper, it doesn’t seem like anyone has done any serious reporting about this and that’s a shame.

The point of this story is simple – to perhaps get a response and raise awareness. Perhaps someone at the NHL will finally confirm the status of NHL Gamecenter. I don’t think most fans even know about this, especially those in North America. If all fans rally and urge the league and its partners to open up, then we all win.  Fans deserve better treatment since there’s no league without them. Let’s hope all the parties involve realize that.

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26 Comments

Posted by on September 27, 2011 in NHL, Social Media, Television

 

26 responses to “The NHL’s European TV Mess

  1. Scott Harris

    September 29, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Nice to see someone who cares. Keep up the work sir.
    I just dont know what I am going to do without this. I always had ESPN player to accompany the ESPN America coverage, incase I wanted to watch a different game, but that was merely a back up to actual TV coverage. There is no way i am settling for purely online coverage. That is so half-assed.
    Im sure though, that I am not the only one that has a small percentage of mindset wanting this AMI/Medge crew to not find a buyer and fall flat on the ass.
    How dare they think they can do this….

     
  2. paranoidpuck

    September 30, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Indeed, it is a good thing to have GCL available, but that does not compare to having games on TV. When the deal was announced, I never thought I’d still be waiting on network announcements a handful of days before the season gets under way. This is a serious problem.
    As I said, most fans don’t trust AMI/Medge. They have a serious image problem and they have done nothing to change that. If they would reach out a little more, it would make a world of difference. Perhaps they are just embarassed by everything that has happened the last few months so they are playing possum.
    One thing I didn’t mention in this story but I’ve mentioned in some e-mails and tweets is that broadcasting is only part of this deal. AMI/Medge is also expected to help market the league across Europe and develop events. Maybe they are doing better in that department but it doesn’t look like it at this point.

     
  3. Nigel Turner

    September 30, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    It is so disappointing that the best hockey league is no longer available on TV in Europe. What is the point of bringing NHL teams to Europe if no one in the region can then follow the season?! Do you know if ESPN America is discussing with AMI/Medge or directly with the NHL?

    Nigel Turner

     
    • Paranoidpuck

      September 30, 2011 at 6:50 pm

      That’s something I don’t understand. Obviously that wasn’t envisioned back in July. The point of NHL Premiere is to promote the league. TV coverage is essential to that. Viasat was scheduled to air the games in Finland and Sweden but it appears that’s not going to happen.
      As far as whom ESPN is negotiating with, that’s a mystery. It should be with AMI/Medge but I’m betting that the league is heavily involved since we are down to the wire and a deal has to be done within days. That’s purely a guess though. The NHL always says “we are in negotiations” so you can decide for yourself what that means.

       
  4. JeffUK

    October 1, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Great blog post, good to see someone outside Europe is paying attention.

    The problem with anyone talking is that as soon as a broadcaster expresses an interest in bidding for rights they have to sign a confidentiality clause because rights deals are so commercially sensitive. There is very little either side can say, sometimes they’re not even allowed to say if they’re bidding. So in the absence of any hard news, heres some speculation :)

    The NHL have clearly fouled up by selling the rights to Medge / AMI. Heres some wild guessing- they were seduced by promises from Medge / AMI who’d got a name by selling on the Premier League (football / soccer) rights in Scandinavia. Medge / AMI thought they could do something similar with the NHL and have massively overpaid for the rights because they totally misread the market in Europe. They thought they could start a bidding war in Russia, Scandinavia and get big deals in Czech Republic, Slovakia and (perhaps) Germany- ie those countries with strong domestic leagues.

    The NHL fouled up by falling for their promises and not realising that in ESPN they’d got a broadcaster who’d built a channel with a strong brand and good distribution across most of the content (and beyond). The fans of the sport knew where to watch, and liked seeing the games with US / Canadian presentation. Supplementing that with some sub licensing in Scandinavia, Czech Repbulic and elsewhere (such as the old game a week on Five in the UK- dropped due to budget cuts) worked well to increase exposure. Perhaps there was room to work with ESPN to take things further.

    And now look at the mess they’ve got themselves in. Less than a week to go until the season starts, with high profile ‘Premiere’ games happening in Europe that – currently – nobody can (legitimately / easily) watch, outside of the pricey online streaming. They’ve also soured the relationship with their main broadcast partner outside the US.

    Some serious questions need to be asked high up in the NHL.

     
    • paranoidpuck

      October 1, 2011 at 2:20 pm

      I think you’re spot on with your analysis. One thing about the NHL’s COO John Collins is that he’s all about the money. That can a be good thing and it has been in many ways for the league. Revenues have consistently grown with him on board. The bad news is that maybe he only sees dollar signs and doesn’t think of the consequences. That’s probably what happened here.

      Mr. Collins somewhat goofed up similarly with the official beer sponsorship contract. I don’t know if you’ve followed that case but I’ve written about it several times. He signed a record breaking deal (the largest sponsorship in NHL history) with MolsonCoors even though Labatt/Bud alleges they had a deal in place to renew their deal months earlier. With days until the season starts, that litigation continues. As of now, the NHL doesn’t have an official beer sponsor. At least not one without debate and controversy.

       
  5. JeffUK

    October 3, 2011 at 12:28 am

    Interesting article here- http://isport.blesk.cz/clanek/hokej-nhl/110359/jagra-v-televizi-asi-neuvidite-prava-na-nhl-zatim-ceske-stanice-nekoupily.html

    Run through Google Translate you can make some sense of it- including this point.

    “What is the problem? According to information, especially in the Sport newspaper exorbitant amount that the holder wants to television broadcasting rights. This is reportedly the third person who is bought from the original holder. Now it wants above all to make, so put an astronomical price. According to sources Sport is reportedly up to seven times more expensive than in the past”

     
    • paranoidpuck

      October 3, 2011 at 4:03 am

      Thanks for the link. While that article is a little confusing when using Google Translate, Nova Sport is the longtime NHL rights holder in the Czech Republic. It’s also one of the few articles to come out and basically say that AMI/Medge is asking for too much money. A quick check of the Nova Sport schedule fails to bring up any NHL hockey scheduled at this time.

       
    • Crosbyfaninswitzerland

      October 11, 2011 at 8:20 pm

      Crosbyfaninswitzerland. I am a Canadian who has appreciated ESPN coverage for the past 4 years and had no knowledge of this situation.I am shocked and dismayed that the NHL has such scant regard for the fans of Europe. Please get this settled and grow the game not just lip service that appears to be the case. What are the alternatives I need my fix!

       
  6. SteButt

    October 3, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Some pressure on ESPN here too. As a long standing NFL fan based in the UK I suscribed to ESPN in the spring with a view to getting into both the NHL and the NBA.

    Currently we’re in the mother or all lockouts in the NBA and there’s no TV rights to the NHL sorted yet. I’m not paying my subscription fee just for Monday Night Football, so there’s at least some incentive for ESPN to pay up and get a deal done else people like me will probably be ringing up and cancelling, which won’t do them much good as they look to increase their base of UK subscribers.

     
  7. JP

    October 3, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Three days to go and still no news. You’d think the NHL teams starting their seasons in Europe would have a legitimate gripe at not being visible in the market they’re playing in.
    My feeling is that we are some way yet from a deal being reached. It looks like Medge have screwed up big time, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to force ESPN into paying up, taking advantage of the bleed of cancellations. At the same time I expect ESPN are hoping that as the season gets underway and there are no other takers coming forward, that Medge will eventually be forced to cave in and drop the price.
    Either way ESPNA will currently be losing a substantial number of subscriptions, and that will only increase as the season gets underway. I daresay there are a lot of oblivious NHL fans out there still expecting to see HNIC return this month.
    Regarding the option of GCL. I have a large HD TV, and while I didn’t buy it specifically for hockey, I did upgrade to the HD Sky service primarily for that reason. While I’m sure GCL offers decent coverage, I’m not a fan of that as a viable alternative. The price does not compare to what ESPNA charged per month, and the visuals are not HD and subject to connectivity / lag.

     
    • paranoidpuck

      October 3, 2011 at 11:34 pm

      I think it is a standoff. Someone will have to blink. I’m with you on GCL. GCL is nice but it doesn’t replace HD TV coverage.

       
  8. morten

    October 4, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Great article. 4 days to premiere, im starting to get nervous.

     
  9. JP

    October 4, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Puck Daddy has an article up about NHL Centre Ice today that states the following at the bottom:

    “Finally, for those European hockey fans, we’ll have something on your on-going situation as far as your ability to watch NHL games this season tomorrow on Puck Daddy.”

    Hopefully this will be a tv deal article and not just a GCL story.

     
    • paranoidpuck

      October 4, 2011 at 1:46 pm

      I can’t say anything definite but I have heard that a deal is very close. I casually mentioned it in my post about the Helsinki games just because I don’t wanna get anyone’s hopes up until its official. There have already been some deals that were basically announced only to be pulled at the last minute (Viasat) At this point, I dont wanna jinx anything.

       
  10. paranoidpuck

    October 4, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    For those that haven’t read it yet, here’s Puck Daddy’s take on it: http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/Fans-outraged-as-NHL-8217-s-European-TV-deal-re?urn=nhl-wp14035

    PD was kind enough to link to this site along with the Facebook group, Markukleaf’s site and Janne’s open letter. I think more publicity will certainly help the cause. It will put plenty of pressure on the parties involved which is what I was hoping to get out of this post.

    Even though nothing new was announced today, I’m still optimistic that something will be in place by Thursday.

    One other note is that ESPN America did send out a public statement today. There wasn’t really anything new in it so I didn’t make a post for it but here it is:
    “We remain in discussions with the current NHL rights holders about the potential for English-language NHL rights in Europe. We are still interested in continuing our coverage if the right opportunity exists, and continue to have a valued relationship with the NHL. We’ll share more information as it develops in the future. “

     
  11. Kris

    October 5, 2011 at 8:33 am

    As an American residing in France I’m convinced that nothing is going to come close to ESPNica’s coverage over the past few years. I can understand that in some markets the NHL may be worth a certain amount of money to broadcasters (Russia, Scandinavia, Czech Republic, etc, where there a fair amount of players), but in France, Spain, Italy not enough people care. Before ESPNica came to cable, the only NHL games you got were about 2 games per week at 2 in the morning on Canal + (30+ EUR per month) with some expat French-Canadian announcing on video (not a live announcer).
    ESPNica, for it’s faults, does/did show a fair amount of games. yeah, it was a “premium” network, that I paid 6 EUR per month for (now it’s part of the Sport pack with Eurosport, Euro 2, etc for 10 EUR), but it’s definitely the best solution (at least there was a broadcaster who was willing to show NHL pan-European). Maybe in 2, 3 years something better could come along, but I can not imagine that anyone is going to pay AMI/Medge what they think the games are worth in markets like Spain, France, Italy.
    Meh, I guess I’m going to pay GameCenter Live, but sometimes it’s not about “watching a game” as much as it is about ambiance. I used to love my Saturday mornings of cueing up the DVR with the previous night’s games and just let it run all morning while I did stuff around the house. Usually the overnight recording ended just in time for NHL Live to come on.

     
  12. James

    October 5, 2011 at 11:41 am

    As a UK hockeyfan I don’t hold much hope of much NHL being watched over here. Unless someone can pull a rabbit out of a hat by Thursday. NHL Premiere from Europe, except you can’t watch it in Europe.

    Yeah great marketing of the game Bettman, you shot yourself in the foot with that one! No doubt the newspaper will pick up on it this week and will set the NHL’s attempt to market the league in Europe back years. Wait, no bad press….. no one can see it anyway!

     
  13. tomas

    October 6, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    puck drops in 9 hours and still nothing…

     
  14. Donald King

    October 6, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    We here at the NHL want to promote ice hockey in Europe. This year we’re going to promote the game by stopping anyone watching it on television. You might be able to watch bits of it by crouching over your laptop, though. Love to Europe from the NHL. We just don’t understand why some of you might get to prefer college football and NFL instead. We get paid lots of money for making wise decisions…

     
  15. Godfrey

    October 7, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    It sucks!!! in these high technology days that they can’t get their act together and sort it out.My sons are in Canada where they watch every game that the Oilers play. Football in the UK could learn an awful lot from the NHL where communities support for their team and the team gets full respect for their sport.The players have full respect for the community and support many good causes .
    With out this sport in europe the NHL will be the loser as there are many Europeans & Russians playing in the NHL. So they will lose the growth from the young players wishing to play in the NHL in the future.
    Lets hope this mess gets sorted out quickly, or we all complain to Don Cherry to get it sorted . Who wants to watch NBL in the winter anyway surely that’s a summer game!!!!!!!!!!. Get the Ice Hockey back now.

     
  16. petri kautto

    October 10, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Hi.the game center live isn’t available here in finland.that means no nhl on tv or internet.

     
  17. Tor Hellberg

    October 10, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Yes, get the ESPN and the ESPN player back NOW! This is garbage!
    Tor

     

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