Blackout and other restrictions may apply…
You’re telling me. I can’t even watch the final.
For the 2016/17 season, the TV rights for the English Premier League are worth £5.14 billion ($6.5 billion US/$8.8 billion CAD/64.1 million Cristiano Ronaldos). Yet the majority of games are played at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon and none of these games are televised. The reason for this self imposed blackout is noble and logical; the English Football Association wants you to get off your ass, buy a ticket and go watch a game live like your grandad did 20 years ago.
Each game costs approximately £10 million, multiply that by all the 3pm games across the season and that’s a huge slice of revenue that the FA is missing out on. But it stands by its decision and is unlikely to change. These games are available however outside of the UK.
Why is this relevant? Because despite being an NHL.TV subscriber I can’t watch the Stanley Cup final live. It’s blacked out because another subscription channel, Premier Sport is showing it. During the regular season this isn’t a huge issue because there are 2,460 regular games only a small selection of those can be blacked out at any one time.
Why not subscribe to both services to get all the games? Because I’m not made of money and on balance, NHL.tv is far superior. The age of multi-sport channels is on the way out, I’m reluctant to pay for a bunch of sports that I’m never going to watch. The dilemma is this; if I want to be able to watch soccer, NFL, NHL, Formula 1 and baseball, I have to pay four different companies for three different multi-sport packages and one specific package (NHL.tv). Luckily I can drop baseball immediately as watching it on TV is like watching paint dry.
The NHL is easily the least accessible and most insular of North America’s big four sports, and decision like this don’t do anything to shake Uncle Gary’s image of being a pure revenue generator at the expense of the fans. As the needs of the fans change, products have to change.
NHL.tv is a good subscription service and I enjoy using it. But I resent not being able to watch the finals. As an international customer my hands are tied. I don’t want to pay for another multi-sport package. I would be willing, begrudgingly, to pay slightly more for NHL.tv to get all games.
Better still, to make the sport more accessible, the Stanley Cup finals should be shown free of charge. The Super Bowl can be watched legally without paying an extra subscription, the FA Cup Final is the same, as is the Champions’ League Final. Why not make the final series of the NHL playoffs free of charge to entice people in. During the regular season NHL.com shows some games free games (still subject to blackout). This should be extended to key games in the playoffs.
If money is a bit tight at NHL Towers, these games can be sponsored, or slap a Geico logo on the players’ shorts and that will more than make up the difference. I understand the reasons for domestic blackouts, although I don’t hugely support it. International blackouts are par for the course during the the regular season so I can accept it. But other competitions have already set a precedent showing that compromises can be made. The UEFA Champions’ League, Europe’s biggest annual football competition is shown exclusively on BT Sport; but the final is made available to everyone. Sure it’s BT Sport branded up to its eyeballs but that’s understandable.
The NHL wants to appeal more to an international audience, that’s why international games are returning. But the Stanley Cup is the jewel in the NHL’s crown and as long as it’s locked up behind a paywall, the NHL can never truly expand.