Here’s a few random rambles about the NHL on Versus, the NHL’s international television deals and the NHL trying to create events by branding games.
- I like that Versus is changing things up with their broadcast pairs. Having the same lineup every week is very repetitive and there’s no reason that Pierre McGuire can’t work with Dave Strader every now and then. TSN swaps lineups all the time and Versus should do the same now that it has a strong talent lineup.
- Even with that, having Mike Milbury as a game analyst was a total disaster. Making it worse was having McGuire as the other analyst. Listening to the two of them bicker while Strader was trying to call a game was awful. It hit a low point when they started debating over visors. Nobody watches games to listen to the analysts argue. This was an experiment that shouldn’t be brought back.
- Ratings for Versus continue to struggle. Their NHL ratings are barely up over last season and their much hyped original programming has largely bombed. Adding college hockey is a nice idea but it’s not going to draw many eyeballs. Even NFL Turning Point is struggling but perhaps its new post NHL time slot will give it a boost. The good news is that college football has drawn well for the network even if it pales to what its competitors draw. For Versus, anything that draws over 500,000 viewers a week is a very good thing.
- How low are ratings for games this season? Well, most people make fun of Versus for showing PBR rodeo but the PBR World Finals telecasts from last week had decent numbers, peaking at 387,000 viewers. In fact, the PBR finals drew more viewers than all but two NHL on Versus telecasts this season. Now, of course, NHL ratings are slightly up but this is why people shouldn’t be so quick to demand Versus pull the PBR and outdoors programming off their lineup. In most cases, they outdraw the other shows that Versus carries. It might help the network’s image but it won’t help the ratings.
- Another Versus woe is its carriage in bars and hotels. During my week in Florida, I didn’t see Versus on any TVs in any bar and my hotel room didn’t carry it either. Oddly enough, several bars did have NHL Network showing on televisions and my room did offer NHLN. How does a hotel have NHLN over Versus? Very strange. This is a serious issue that NBC needs to rectify. Trying to watch games while traveling is nearly impossible. Either get better carriage or put them online so fans can watch them through phones, tablets and computers.
ON THE NHL
- It’s great that the international NHL blackout is largely over. I say largely because one hockey powerhouse is still without the NHL. That one is Russia. Amazingly, Russia is still without an NHL television provider. It seems like that fact has sorta gotten lost. If the NHL wants to bring down the KHL, it needs to find a deal pronto.
- Now that we know the details of the new NHL international TV partners, how did the league fare? John Collins and the league are trying to make it sound as positive as possible with the mainstream media following their lead. But the reality is different. In many cases, fans are paying more money to have access to these games. In the case of the UK, games are no longer in HD and many people don’t have access to the channel. Viasat is gouging people by forcing people to get the Viaplay package to watch online. It seems to me that most fans are unhappy with these deals. Just because the league says its good, it doesn’t make it so.
- In most cases, European fans have now lost out on intermission features and original programs like NHL On the Fly. The uproar over the lack of Hockey Night in Canada is strong but at least you can watch the features online. And while Viasat has bragged about using their own announcers, most fans don’t wanna hear them. They prefer the U.S. and Canadian broadcasts in their full glory.
- Collins loves to brand everything and create big events but the NHL might be having its tackiest moment. I don’t mind that Tim Hortons will be affixed to the All-Star Game but the “Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown” has to be one of the cheesiest things the league has ever come up with. I’m not sure how much of an “event” this game could ever become. It’s a hockey game on Black Friday. Sure, it could draw some nice numbers, but this game won’t be much different from any other, no matter what you call it. I suppose it will be neat to see an NHL float during the Macy’s parade, but outside of that, I find the whole thing a little silly. I suppose I am a purist in that I don’t think you should have to “brand” games to get people excited about them. You can find the NBC promo video below. I’ll give them credit in that the promo is pretty humorous.