The NHL's new 10 year, $2 Billion television contract with VERSUS and NBC promises an increase in NHL coverage, both at the network and cable level, as well as the potential for hockey to be the centerpiece of a new sports programming brand under the Comcast umbrella.
However, Ducks fans will remember that, just last season, shortly after eliminating the Presidents' Trophy winning Sharks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Anaheim was omitted completely from both the NBC and VERSUS programming schedules for the 2009-10 campaign. In general, NBC has preferred a handful of teams for its limited calendar of games, and VERSUS has done little to fill the void in coverage left by the Peacock's preferences.
Robby, is the new TV contract good or bad for the Ducks?
The new deal is good to potentially great for the Ducks, and more specifically, their fans. Before I get too far along, I highly recommend reading Puck the Media's take on the deal. It's a great summary, and some of my thoughts are definitely informed by theirs.
For starters, the fact that every playoff game will be available on a national channel is huge. When VERSUS/NBC unveiled their U.S. schedule for the quarterfinal round, it was no shock to Ducks fans that a grand total of zero games were originally planned to be carried (VERSUS decided to throw us a bone, as tonight's Game 5 will be televised nationally). Some have complained that this deal may relegate hockey games to the likes of CNBC or Bravo, but I couldn't really care less what channel the games are on. It's absurd that my parents, who live in San Diego, have only been able to watch Game 3, which was televised on Fox Sports West. For the next ten years, this will not be an issue.
This deal goes from potentially good to great when you consider that NBC/Comcast will nearly double the games they carry each year. I'm not aware if the specifics of how these extra games will be covered has been revealed or not, but it seems reasonable to assume that VERSUS (or whatever it becomes in the next 90 days) might start carrying double-headers for their weekday games. As things currently stand, the channel typically only broadcasts one game on the weekdays, which necessarily favors teams that play a majority of their games in the Eastern time zone. If VERSUS institutes regular double-headers, the chances that Ducks games will be carried nationally increases significantly.
Another potential winner in this deal is NBC's announced coverage of a Black Friday game each year. While it's likely that this game will include the eight or so teams that are usually featured in NBC's Game of the Week, the Ducks do have a tradition of matinee games on Black Friday. I'm not holding my breath that we'll be the nationally televised game here, but at least there's a chance.
Lastly, this is a ten year deal. From the analysis I've read on this deal, there doesn't appear to be any kind of escape-hatch for NBC/Comcast if they change their mind a few years out. Since this is now effectively a medium-term investment for them, it would make sound business sense for NBC/Comcast to get this right and make the necessary investments to make this deal a profitable one. While the Ducks may not directly benefit from this in the short term, it would seem to be a positive move for the continued health of the sport.
In summary, I'm pretty happy with this deal. I'm not suddenly expecting to see a Ducks-heavy schedule on VERSUS next season, but I do think this helps players like Corey Perry get more of the national cred they deserve. I still think the Ducks have work to do on their own regional broadcasting agreements, but that's another topic altogether.
I've grown accustomed to Daniel's pessimism, so I'll need to regroup after all the positive thinking you've displayed.
I agree that the ten year window proffers nothing but opportunities, and in that sense, it can be good for Anaheim. They are not now a team that VERSUS or NBC care to highlight. You can probably point to the poor ratings performance of their Stanley Cup Finals for that.
While I agree that the East Coast feed makes it easier to feature teams in the Eastern Time Zone, I believe only the Ducks and Hurricanes were omitted from the national broadcast schedule last year i.e. the Kings and Sharks weren't.
But Paul Kariya was once a mainstay in the NHL on FOX campaign, as he (and subsequently the Dynamic Duo of he and Selanne) was an offensive dynamo in the Dead Puck Era. So, whatever prejudices there may be against Anaheim, marketability shouldn't be one of them. The assumption that no player from Anaheim can create compelling television would be a new one.
And somewhere in that ten year window, the Ducks have the opportunity both to prove themselves improved ratings performers and to build the kind of team that conforms to the VERSUS/NBC criteria for national broadcast worthy hockey.
So, I join in your sentiment that it won't happen tomorrow, but somewhere in the ten years after that, the Ducks have nothing but opportunities to become a major beneficiary of the new deal.