I know this will anger the hockey fans out there....but thank God hockey is off of ESPN. Now we have more MLB, NBA and NCAA hoops to watch instead of hours on end of hockey.
Let me get this out there - I don't hate hockey. I am a fan. Not a die hard, however. To me, the NHL season starts and ends with the Stanley Cup playoffs. I do get quite involved in the playoffs....but I can barely fathom watching a regular season game.
ESPN declined to pick up a $60M option to keep televising the NHL in hopes that they could re-up for a much cheaper price. Good strategy, since the NHL and NBC made a deal in which they partner for profits. ESPN also watched an entire season go by with no hockey to show....they had more hoops in the winter and more baseball in the spring [not to mention more poker]. It made no sense to beg the NHL to stay.
So, Comcast now gets the NHL. They are the nation's largest cable provider and own four regional networks....as well as majority shares of the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers [who both play in the Comcast Center]. The games will be shown on OLN....the Outdoor Life Network. OLN reaches only about 75% of the homes ESPN does....and it doesn't have a built in base like ESPN [meaning, not as many people will stumble on it]. OLN is most popular for having the Tour de France...which did quite well. But with Lance Armstrong retiring...it is safe to assume viewership of the Tour will drop dramatically.
They do have other programming....mainly in rodeos, action sports [motocross] and field sports [Buckmasters]. They also show old seasons of Survivor. OLN would stop becoming just a "outdoor life" network and into a real sports programming entity. Word is that when the NFL starts the bidding war on Thursday or Saturday night games....OLN will become a major player. I mean, that is how ESPN started their upward climb.
Does that cause ESPN to shake?? Not really. ESPN is still more than a network...it is a brand. There is ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPNClassic, ESPNU and ESPN Deportes. They have a radio network, themed resteraunts and parks, etc. They also currently house the MLB, NFL, NBA, NCAA football and basketball...and a ton of other stuff. Not to mention that when CNN and SI got together under the Turner umbrella....the network didn't last too long. Turner still has NBA rights [and the Braves and Hawks] in a dual partnership with ESPN. FoxSportsNet became a nice rival after consoldating many former "SportsChannel" networks and rogue channels like "Sports South" to form a major network that has "affiliates". But many sports personalities use Fox Sports Net as a springboard to ESPN [see: John Kruk, Stephen A. Smith, Jim Rome].
The NHL would get OLN's foot in the door of the "major" team sports world. While it doesn't completely put them in the same class as CBS Sports, ABC/ESPN, NBC Sports or FoxSports....it at least puts them on the map.
UPDATE: Here is an article my wife sent me about a problem a Comcast customer had to deal with recently...
ELGIN, Ill. -- Philadelphia-based Comcast is apologizing for an insulting epithet on a bill.
LaChania Govan made dozens of phone calls to the cable company to complain about service, but she said she was never rude.
So the Elgin, Ill., woman was shocked when her bill came and had the insult printed where her name should be.
Instead of her name, the bill had the "b" word printed on it.
Wednesday, Comcast said it fired two employees for the incident and also issued an apology to Govan.
"We are appalled by this treatment of our customer and want to extend our sincerest apologies" to LaChania Govan, the company said Wednesday in a statement. "This is not the way Comcast does business."
Comcast officials offered Govan two months of free cable to try to make amends.
But she's canceled her Comcast account, anyway.