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  • NHL's relationship w/ ESPN officially ends

    ESPN decides not to match Comcast's offer
    By Darren Rovell
    ESPN.com

    The NHL will have a new television home next fall.

    ESPN, which has had a stake in NHL broadcasts since the 1992-93 season, informed the league on Wednesday that it would not match the offer put forth by Comcast.

    "Tonight, we informed the NHL that we did not accept their final contract offer," ESPN and ABC Sports president George Bodenheimer said in a statement. "We worked very hard to build and sustain our relationship with the league and would have liked to continue. However, given the prolonged work stoppage and the league's TV ratings history, no financial model even remotely supports the contract terms offered."

    In the 2003-04 season, NHL games on ESPN drew an audience in 416,000 homes and games on ESPN2 were watched in 209,000 homes.

    In May, ESPN informed the league that it would not pick up the $60 million option it had to broadcast the league's games for another season. After the league and the players' association settled on the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement in mid-July, Comcast, the nation's largest cable television provider, became the most interested in picking up the NHL's broadcasts. Comcast offered a three-year deal worth more than $200 million, and ESPN officials were brought back to the table. They had until Wednesday to once again decide if it was in the network's best interest.

    Comcast, which owns four regional sports networks as well as a majority share in the Philadelphia 76ers and Flyers, is expected to put its NHL games on OLN. An OLN spokesperson did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

    Over the past year, the channel has endured a major shift. The network's name is now what was once its acronym. The Outdoor Life Network is no longer and its motto is now, "We've Got A New Attitude." The hunting and fishing the network was founded on a decade ago is now mostly replaced with events ranging from the Tour de France and America's Cup to the All-Star BBQ Showdown. One of OLN's greatest assets is the 10 seasons of "Survivor" re-runs it purchased from CBS for a reported $10 million.

    The deal appears to be a winning proposition for all the parties involved.

    Despite a season-long work stoppage, the NHL will still collect a good deal of money on the sale of its broadcast rights. That's an amazing achievement, given that the league agreed to a revenue-sharing deal with NBC before the lockout that came free of any rights fee.

    Since NHL programming is going to be OLN's most important asset, Comcast officials could be willing to spend more money to capitalize on the relationship. For the networks that have had hockey, including Fox and ESPN, investing in growing the hockey audience simply didn't pay off when considering how much more they had invested in other sports programming.

    Comcast might also have additional motivation to spend -- to prove to leagues that it is willing to be great partners if leagues should seek to use OLN to build a sports network from scratch. Last year, Comcast offered an unsolicited bid of $66 billion to buy the Walt Disney Co., which owns ESPN. The offer was rejected by the Disney board.

    "It seems clear that OLN is setting itself up as a competitor to ESPN," said Bodenheimer. "We welcome it. It will make us better."

    The potential audience is smaller. ESPN is in 90 million homes and ESPN2 is in 89 million homes. OLN is in 63 million households, a 75 percent increase from the number of households the network was in four years ago. That makes it easier for hockey fans to find the channel and, if they don't have it, they might be willing to pay for it.

    "With the NHL deal, OLN is now further away from being that niche channel for serious sports recreation enthusiasts and moves closer to the sports fan who is enthusiastic about sitting on his couch watching the sport he loves," said David Carter, principal of The Sports Business Group, a sports consultancy firm.

    A year without hockey proved to ESPN executives that picking up the option or matching Comcast's offer didn't make much financial sense, even at half the price it paid when the deal started in 1999. In the NHL's place, ESPN filled the air with original programming, like "Bowling Night" and "Stump The Schwab." Programs like these drew ratings that were at least comparable to the number of people watching NHL games.

    Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at [email protected].

    "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
    Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
    -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy

  • #2
    What?
    No more Gary Thorne?
    No more Bill Clement?

    (Tell me they're getting rid of Melrose too...please please tell me)
    "Whaddya mean I hurt your feelings?"
    "I didn't know you
    had any feelings"

    Comment


    • #3
      No more Buccigross!!!!
      RIP Chris Jones 1971-2009
      You'll never be forgotten.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by SunuvaNun@Aug 18 2005, 12:04 AM
        What?
        No more Gary Thorne?
        No more Bill Clement?

        (Tell me they're getting rid of Melrose too...please please tell me)
        Those guys are essentially freelancers...they'll probably move...

        and yes JWB, probably no more Buccigross...I like this analogy: What Gary Cherone was to Van Halen, so is 'Harry Potter' to OLN....or something like that, fuck it

        "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
        Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
        -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by *007*+Aug 18 2005, 12:10 AM-->
          QUOTE(*007* @ Aug 18 2005, 12:10 AM)

        • #6
          Originally posted by SunuvaNun@Aug 18 2005, 12:15 AM
          Comcast probably doesn't have their telelvision announcers inked yet.
          They could hire...Ken Wilson.
          This would interfere with his job as Governor of Hawaii.
          RIP Chris Jones 1971-2009
          You'll never be forgotten.

          Comment


          • #7
            Originally posted by JWB+Aug 18 2005, 12:18 AM-->
            QUOTE(JWB @ Aug 18 2005, 12:18 AM)

          • #8
            Originally posted by SunuvaNun+Aug 18 2005, 12:22 AM-->
            QUOTE(SunuvaNun @ Aug 18 2005, 12:22 AM)
            Originally posted by [email protected] 18 2005, 12:18 AM

          • #9
            i miss gary :( he and clement at 1am in a game 3-4 of the stanley cup finals goofing around was a lot of fun.

            Comment


            • #10

              NHL strikes cable deal with Comcast, OLN

              Associated Press

              8/18/2005 1:23:15 AM

              NEW YORK (AP) - NHL games will air on Outdoor Life Network for at least the next two seasons.

              The league finalized a two-year deal with Comcast Corp. - the owner of OLN - late Wednesday night after ESPN declined to match the agreement that will pay the NHL $65 million US this season and $70 million in 2006-07.

              The agreement between Comcast and the NHL was approved by the league's board of governors last week. ESPN, which resumed regular broadcast of NHL games in 1992, had until Wednesday night to match the contract but decided to pass.

              "Over the years, thousands of great NHL moments were presented to our fans through the lenses of ESPN cameras," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. "ESPN was a supportive partner, and both the National Hockey League and ESPN enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship. We wish ESPN continued success."

              The new deal can be extended up to six years. For the 2007-08 season, Comcast would pay the NHL $72.5 million but that number could go higher based on contingencies.

              OLN, best known for providing live coverage of the Tour de France, will show between 58 and 78 regular-season games, as well as conference quarter-finals and the entire conference finals - with the exception of some weekend windows that could move games to NBC in both playoff rounds.

              OLN will show Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup final before NBC takes over for the remainder of the series.

              The deal with Comcast goes beyond just television rights. Comcast will bring the NHL Network to cable systems in the United States, and provide on-demand game broadcasts and computer streaming of live games.

              This is the second time in recent months that ESPN has declined a deal with the NHL. In June, ESPN passed on a $60-million option under the previous contract. The network tried to retain the rights for less money in talks with the league.

              ESPN contended that the value of NHL games had dropped substantially following the lockout that wiped out all of last season.

              "We worked very hard to build and sustain our relationship with the league and would have liked to continue," George Bodenheimer, the president of ESPN, Inc. and ABC Sports said in a statement late Wednesday night. "However, given the prolonged work stoppage and the league's TV ratings history, no financial model even remotely supports the contract terms offered. We wish the NHL all the best."

              The NHL will begin a two-year deal with NBC for over-the-air broadcasts beginning with the upcoming season. That is a profit-sharing arrangement, a deal similar to what the network has with the Arena Football League and the National Lacrosse League in which it pays no rights fee to televise games.

              "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
              Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
              -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy

              Comment


              • #11
                so...we can be happy about it now right?

                Comment


                • #12
                  Oh how I'll miss the days of hearing Thorne bury his head up the Red Wings ass and miss hearing Melrose say one week that the Colorado Avalanche are his favorite team to beat for the Stanley Cup only to come back the next week and tell Buccigross that the New Jersey Devils are his choice to take the Cup. Oh, and I'll miss Melrose telling us about the '93 Stanley Cup Finals and how he coached Wayne Gretzky, like Gretzky was some piece of shit until Melrose coached him and he became this superstar after taking some guidance from him. "When I coached Wayne Gretzky.................." No fuckhead, Gretzky coached you.

                  Comment


                  • #13
                    Anyone know how this affects Center Ice and the Blues?
                    \'user \'user \'user\'user\'user\'user\'user
                    Official Lounge Sponsor of Dwight Freeney

                    Comment


                    • #14
                      Originally posted by lazypenguin@Aug 18 2005, 01:29 AM
                      Anyone know how this affects Center Ice and the Blues?

                      Not sure yet. Haven't heard anything. I want to know when single tix go on sale.

                      Comment


                      • #15
                        yeah, good luck espn with espn hollywood and steven a smith

                        Comment

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