Thursday, August 18, 2005

15 Years Later...

Fifteen years after the big push for a big American TV contract, the NHL enters the new brave world of the Outdoor Life Network. The fact that ESPN didn't even bother to match Comcast's (which owns OLN) offer of $207.5 million, which is almost less than half of what ESPN's old deal was, says quite a bit about the NHL's foothold in the US. I'm not sure, but I think that trampoline basketball had higher ratings at one point. Same with poker.

There's also the irony that the Disney-owned-ABC-owned-ESPN has pulled away from the NHL altogether, last year selling the once prized jewel of expansion, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. That said, OLN may be small but Comcast is big, big enough to try to buy ABC (including ESPN) last year and they already have a bunch of regional sports networks, and oh, they also own the Flyers. This is certainly better than the no money up-front, embarassing ad revenue sharing deal that ESPN proposed, similar to limited deal the NHL already has with NBC. But make no mistake, we're small cookies: in contrast, the NFL had a 8 billion dollar deal with CBS and Fox while the NBA has a 4.6 billion dollar deal -- it's safe to say, fifteen years later we're no longer the fourth Big Sport in the US. That distinction probably can go to Arena Football or something.

But if anything it tell us how far we've dropped. The league is diluted with teams in cities prized for nothing more than their ability to get a TV deal, with no connection to hockey or things that make people think of hockey, like snow and ice.

Like everything else in hockey, except player salaries, numbers are to come by, but look at the Canadian TV money:

CBC: 60 million
TSN: 20 million
LeafsTV: 12 (aprox ?)
Sportsnet: unknown! (now that's sports journalism! it's funny that in hundreds of articles about the lockout, TV deals, etc, simple basic things like "how much?" go unanswered)

And the US:

COMcast: 69 million US = 84 million

Anyway, it's a bit of a crude comparison, things like advertising revenue are even harder to come by, for instance,
but the point remains: the big American dream of expansion has failed miserably. Revenue sharing is now going to go south of the border to save Carolina and Pittsburgh, not exactly well worth the lockout. I'm curious to see what happens over the course of this new CBA, whether the league will regain any popularity in the US or whether some teams will dry up in the South. Time will tell. In the meantime, I just plunked down a couple hundred dollars on NHL Centre Ice... just another Canadian dope.


Anonymous said...

How's the TV money divvied up, anyhow? Does the CBC money get split evenly 30 ways, or do the Canadian teams get half, as they're always provide at least one of the teams? (Except for the cup final, most years.)

mike w said...

From what I've read, TV money is split evenly amongst 30 teams. I know for a fact that the ESPN deal was like this, and I'd assume the same for the OLN deal.

Anonymous said...

Uh, unrelatedly, we avoided arbitration with Horcoff today. It didn't say how much we signed him for, but it was a one-year deal.

On that note, has anyone noticed the spate of one-year deals we seem to be signing? I mean, don't get me wrong, you don't want anything too long-term what with the cap and all, but would a two-year deal kill us? This goes back to something I said a long time before, but if we are to have any hope of attracting big talent through free agency, we have to look like we're building something here (like Calgary is), and you don't really do that by making it so your core might be gone with the wind in a year. Eh, anyway, considering he's our projected number-one centre, good that we have him.


mike w said...

By the way, I think I'm gonna leaven the fan-boyish quality of my website with Slash Fiction starring rival teams. Stay tuned...

Jail Break '74 said...

Dave's point about one-year deals: Agreed. It leaves me thinking they don't really have a lot of faith in what they have, which works in opposition to what they've said, yet seems in sync with general logical thought.
Unless the New NHL is a complete tear down and rebuild every year (which it certanly cannot be), you need to sign you're future players to a deal that lasts a few years, then impress them enough to stick.
I guess I'm thinking of Jarret Stoll's one-year deal for the esoteric sum of $501,600.
What does this mean? Seriously, what? That might be a wait and see thing, but
Rita is there for two years at the minimum $450,000, as is Winchester.
Granted, they are young enough to be a restricted free agents but I thought Edmonton was done robbing Peter to pay Paul.
I think more than anything the New CBA may have brought the disposible culture of NHL into the light.
There's a ton of minimum wage players out there, maybe four on average per team, though interestingly twice as many overall in the Eastern confernece.
140 players are now listed as making less than $500,000 per season (the league minimum is now $450K -- close enough), plus another 158 undisclosed deals with at best marginal players (including a whopping 20 unknowns on the Wash Caps!!).
Could it be possible that more than one-third of the players in this league will be making basically minimum wage this year? Yeesh.

Sure there are your fair share of Duvie Westcotts, but strew among these ham and eggers are:
*Detroit's Andy Delmore, not exactly dynamic, but he scored 18 goals two year ago with Nashville.
*Rob Dimaio, does an aging but steady 10-goal scorer deserve this indignity?
* Reinhart Divis, wild card goalie who's only ever seen light duty in the bigs.

Also note: Scott Ferguson in Minnesota and Jason Chimera in Phoenix at the $450K, plus the guy everyone everywhere was waiting for the market to crush, Todd Marchant, comes in at $2.47-million.

Eh, I don't know. I'm sleepy.


Kris Meen said...

I just read a spread in the Globe and Mail that had the Oilers doing second-best during this summer's post-lockout manoeuvering, right behind the Flames. Seems to contrast with the general feel of Oilers board-posters - have we just been trained to be overly pessimistic over the past 15 years? Or is the Globe and Mail staffed by monkeys?

High Voltage said...

The line on the Oilers 1998-2004 was that the trouble was a lack of alite players. Now they've got two, having traded up, but still lack scoring and a championship goaltender.
THey're essentially the same team that needed second line players to fill top roles and frustrated fans before the lockout.
The keys: The new rules have to take hold (don't assume this is an automatic), Hemsky has to break out and Conklin has to be more than the third-best goalie on Team USA.

-- Randy