Gary Bettman Didn't Think ESPN Was The Place To Be, Following The Strike

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Much talk has been made about the NHL going back to ESPN soon, and while it's still a possibility, Gary Bettman (on CSN Chicago's "Monsters in the Morning") said that the "Leader" wasn't the place for the league following the strike. The NHL Commish even explained that network television isn't all it's cracked up to be when it comes to Hockey. Via Sports Business Daily....

"There tends to be some criticism of them, probably initiated by some of their competitors. We felt coming out of the work stoppage and the year off, doing the traditional mode, going back to ESPN, where they have everything, wasn’t going to help us bring the game back as strong."

"With the use of digital technology, we can really give our fans as close a connection to the game as they want in a whole variety of ways. We think having come back as strong as we have from the work stoppage, four years of record attendance and record revenues; our ratings are up just about everywhere on television. We’re probably as strong as we’ve ever been."
I guess that's a strong point in theory (when you consider Hockey ratings are never THAT good), but if you are trying to get people to see a Sport, wouldn't you go to where the most eyes were/are? Seems like it's only a matter of time before ESPN picks Hockey back up, and thank goodness, because Versus is just about the hardest channel to find on cable.

NHL Commissioner Discusses League's TV Presence (Sports Business Daily)

Posted by Awful Announcing at 4:03 PM

16 Comments:

Monsters in the Morning look worse than Mike and Mike.

GMoney said...
May 13, 2009, 4:13:00 PM  

He makes somewhat of a point, but even if it is true, it does not bode well for hockey staying a major sport in this country, if it still is.

Nathan Brice said...
May 13, 2009, 4:19:00 PM  

FOX should get the NHL back.

Michael said...
May 13, 2009, 4:48:00 PM  

How is Versus hard to find? It's channel 25 on my cable system. I hit 2...then i hit 5...and I watch the channel.

It boggles my mind that so many people bash ESPN yet the only way for the NHL to survive is to go crawling back to the network that dropped it.

I enjoy getting a ton of hockey during the playoffs on one channel. It makes far better sense for the NHL to grow on Versus and make that *its* channel than get lost in the shuffle on ESPN.

Ed James said...
May 13, 2009, 4:48:00 PM  

It's a problem of perception.

ESPN is seen by many, including here at AA, as the center of the sports broadcasting universe.

If the NHL were back on the four-letter, they'd be one of many - I mean, does the network have the bandwidth to show every NHL playoff game the way Versus has after Round One, plus honor its NBA and MLB commitments? Would ESPN have bumped the NFL draft off the main network for a hockey game, or put hockey on ABC instead of an NBA game? I doubt it.

The NHL was useful for ESPN when it was rolling out ESPN2 and needed programming. It doesn't need programming any more - it has NBA, NFL, a billion college games, etc.

And if the NHL did go to ESPN, how often would it find itself in the UEFA Champions League memorial non-HD ESPN Classic broadcast - doesn't that defeat the point since hockey, more than any other sport, relies on HD to make it watchable at home?

There's plenty not to like about Versus - but its not like its on the GD Lifetime channel or something.

Versus and the league would be better served by offering more games, a nightly highlight show and the like, rather than limiting their broadcasts to one or two games a week during the season.

Versus needs programming - like a nascent version of "The Deuce" all those many years ago. If they could get a couple more minor-ish sports like hockey, maybe bid on the MLS the next time it comes up, or look overseas at rugby, or Aussie Rules Football, or non-EPL European football they could be a semi-serious player in the niche-sports market. Which isn't a bad place to be.

Sean said...
May 13, 2009, 5:04:00 PM  

The Niche-sports-market is fine if thats where you want to be. Just don't tell me the NHL is in the same ballpark with the other three biggies when it isn't in the same parking lot.

But if you put together a list of sports that would draw people that the Leader doesn't have it's hand in... what would be on that list?

Too bad Vs. couldn't get their hands on a big time college football package.

FightingPike said...
May 13, 2009, 5:09:00 PM  

Comcast owns Versus, so if you live in a Comcast town you get Versus on expanded basic.

chuckyinjersey said...
May 13, 2009, 5:48:00 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
May 13, 2009, 5:59:00 PM  

VS. grabbed the package that TBS used to have of Pac-10 and Big XII games, along with their Mountain West and Ivy League games. They needed to put that word out a lot better.

The NHL has been on VS for years - that joke of where to find it should have been put to rest years ago.

Doneycat said...
May 13, 2009, 6:00:00 PM  

Yeah, USC usually mails in at least a half (or more) when they have to be on Vs.

/Touchdown USC! Stanford! Touchdown Stanford!'d

May 13, 2009, 6:10:00 PM  

It's hard to find VS on my system, because I don't have it. So, even though I really enjoy hockey, I really can't watch it.

If the NHL were really smart, they'd get the NHL channel on basic like MLB has done.

But I've given up on Bettman being smart. It just isn't him.

Jim said...
May 13, 2009, 7:20:00 PM  

The biggest reason VS. sucks is that I have to pay an extra $12 to $15 to get it along with ESPNU and several other rarely watched channels. I do this only because some Red Wings games are exclusively on VS.
In game 4 despite having the red wings exclusively and only being 2 hours outside of Detroit and being promised that I wouldn't miss a minute I was stuck with Chicago Vacncouver OT and had to miss 10 minutes. Local markets should never be shut out of any game.
Fox Sports Detroit's coverage is much better and I never miss a minute when they get to cover the game.

Math Geek said...
May 13, 2009, 9:06:00 PM  

On my cable Vs. is up at 75 I believe. It's near truTV and other things I don't flip to.

I usually don't go past 54 on my cable, that's where TNT is. Anything after that is just HGTV, Disney, Nick etc.

FightingPike said...
May 14, 2009, 11:00:00 AM  

Math Geek . . I live in Lansing and all the WIngs games have been on Fox Sports Detroit, the Versus feed is blacked out. We have DirecTV, so it might vary from cable system/satellite system.

There's a reason the NHL needs to be on ESPN though, and it has nothing to do with the broadcasting of games, and everything to do with being on SportsCenter and PTI, etc. Right now, it's not in the best interests of ESPN to talk about hockey, so they don't. If they carried it, at least a little bit, it would get more face time on the gab shows and Sportscenter.

After game five of the Pens/Caps series saturday night I flipped over to ESPN to catch some highlights, post game reaction, etc. Twenty minutes into the broadcast there was still no mention of Crosby, Ovechkin, etc., but plenty of talk about boring regular season baseball. The most compelling game of the night is an afterthought, that's why the NHL needs to at least be marginally on ESPN.

j-daddy said...
May 14, 2009, 1:50:00 PM  

If I recall and I don't feel like looking it up but only Game 3, 5, 6, and 7 have been on Fox Sports Detroit. Games 1 and 4 were on VS. only. Game 2 was on NBC. I have Dish and Versus hasn't been blacked out at all so some games on FSD are also on Vs.

I agree the best reason for ESPN is the hype on all its platforms.

Math Geek said...
May 14, 2009, 3:28:00 PM  
freefun0616 said...
Sep 26, 2009, 8:02:00 AM  

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