Tuesday, August 09, 2005

 

Comcast OLN: The New Home of the NHL?

Tim Panaccio of the Philadelphia Inquirer Reports, "Comcast has formally submitted a two-year bid in excess of $100 million US to televise NHL games beginning this fall, sources directly involved in the discussions told the Inquirer in Tuesday's edition. The deal calls for Comcast to televise two games a week nationally. The cable giant plans to put the games on its on its Outdoor Life Network, which is also available in Canada. Comcast submitted its bid over the weekend, according to the Inquirer. The NHL could act on it by this weekend.  The company is a major owner of the Philadelphia Flyers. Comcast spokesperson Tim Fitzpatrick declined Monday to comment on the network's interest in the NHL. The NHL also declined when reached by the Inquirer...If the NHL approves the deal, the contract will be forwarded to ESPN. In April, ESPN opted not to renew its $70-million option to televise the NHL for 2005-06 and 2006-07, but ESPN retains the right to match the new offer, a source told the Inquirer. ESPN has carried NHL games in the United States since 1985."

It will be very interesting to see what ESPN does from here. We are always hearing people talk about the bad numbers hockey gets in TV ratings, however a source I spoke to a while back, from within ESPN, said that ESPN actually admitted, in an internal memo regarding slipping ratings overall at the network, that not having play-off hockey last year hurt them.

Now ESPN, who has been the only game in town, may have to up the ante or risk waking up a monster. Comcast not only wants the NHL really badly, but rumor has it they are also going to bid for the Thursday night and Saturday package for NFL football that has not been sold yet. Suddenly ESPN would have a true competitor for the first time. Don't be too surprised if the NHL gets a bit of a bidding war going here.

A NHL source told me when ESPN opted not to renew its option that ESPN did offer 30 Million. The NHL sure made the right move not taking that offer.

Now, will ESPN allow Comcast in on their pot of gold? I doubt it. But Comcast has a little money, and really believes in the NHL product, so this will get interesting.
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Back to the coming freight train I spoke of yesterday. I am hearing more rumblings that we will start seeing offer sheets tendered in an attempt to steal some of the finest players from their current teams. I talked to a source from a team who put it this way.."Think about this. The penalty is only draft picks and draft picks aren't sure things, especially when you factor in the dropping free agency age which will enable you to fill your holes with guaranteed players. What is stopping you from going for St. Louis, Lecavallier, Kovalchuk, Heatley or Thornton really? Or even a goalie like Esche? If you can assure yourself a solid player and all you have to worry about is picks who aren't going to play for three years?"



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