NHL media coverage is vital to the league. High quality and consistent television coverage that is easy to access is vital for the perception, health, and growth of the NHL and hockey as a sport in North America.Let me illustrate through a controversy that erupted in central Ohio. The Columbus Crew, a founding franchise in MLS, made many fans angry recently as they decided to air all of their games locally on the Ohio Time Warner Cable Sports Channel. This is a channel that is exclusive to Time Warner Cable television customers. Combine that with the decision by the franchise to black out games on MLS Live (MLS’ streaming service) and this result was a lot of angry fans who vowed to give up their fanship, it didn’t help that the team’s public relations botched handling complaints. This led to a war between fans and the team on social media. An interesting third party in this fight emerged as a group of fans criticized other fans who said they would no longer follow the team since they couldn’t watch the games. They were decried as “Not real fans” and “Not having any passion for the game”.
What seemed to be forgotten is that for a lot of fans, watching games on television is their primary fan experience. If the team cannot be seen on television so the fans are left seeing scores at the end of the day it takes all of their joy and passion out of it. It is akin to being in a relationship with someone and the only way you can spend time with them is asking how their day was and never getting to spend the day with them.
So obviously being able to watch games for your team is important. Since the lockout shortened season was the first year that every game was televised by each team in their local market that problem has been resolved by the sport. The next problem is all of the ancillary coverage. In a sports environment where there is year round NFL coverage and 24/7 coverage of NBA free agency the perception of the NHL would be helped by more of this type of coverage.
Most of this series will focus on these types of things as well as presentation and where media is taking the future of the sport.
Part 1: Canadian Media
Part 2: ESPN
Part 3: Regional Sports Network
Part 4: NBC Sports/ NBC Sports Network