Puck the Media Interview: NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly on the World Cup, NHL Network, and Having ‘No Desire’ to Leave NBC and VERSUS
August 2, 2010 2 Comments
This is new territory for this website, and for me as a writer. Here I am speaking with the #2 man in the National Hockey League, Bill Daly. What right do I have to be talking with him? Every right, because Bill Daly sees it from a perspective that every fan has the ability to access him. Of all the people purporting the NHL’s new fan-friendly image coming out of the lockout, he seems to take it more seriously than anyone else.
After speaking with him over the phone a week and a half ago, I saw on a Devils website fans posting E-mails they had traded with Mr. Daly about the Ilya Kovalchuk scenario. I spared him any questions on that, and chose to instead do a big “State of the NHL on TV” that I think you’ll find much more interesting. It is a milestone for Puck the Media, it is a personal milestone for myself. I think it legitimizes and validates much of what this site has done. Enjoy it after the jump.
Stephen Lepore: The last time the NHL got a big payday from TV networks was in 1994 and 1999. Do you, as a league, feel the NHL is a better television attraction than in those two years.
Bill Daly: Certainly. I think we’re valuable content, and hopefully we’re in a position to demonstrate that to people. We’re hopeful.
SL: The ratings have been very good for the playoffs and the Stanley Cup Final. When can you start negotiating new deals with NBC and VERSUS, and is there a period of exclusivity for them [to negotiate with]?
BD: There are periods of time in which we will explore new deals. I’m not going to get specific with respect to when they are, but what I will say is we’re very pleased with our partners at both of those companies. They’ve done a good job for us and hopefully we’ve done a good job for them, hopefully. We have no desire to go anywhere else.
SL: Is getting a rights fee from NBC something that’s seen as important to the league as far as the negotiations go?
BD: I wouldn’t be specific about it. We want to get value for the content we provide, and we’ll negotiate with NBC at the appropriate time.
SL: Moving on to actual coverage, does VERSUS really plan to expand their coverage? Towards the end of the season last year, they were showing lots of games and bonus coverage. Do you think they’ll be doing more of that this season?
BD: I think VERSUS, throughout the term of our relationship with them, has increased the amount of hockey content they’ve had on their network virtually every year. I believe its worked for them and I would expect and anticipate they’ll continue to do that.
SL: One of the things I like is the Game of the Week vs. regional coverage that used to be. With NBC, do you see that continuing in the foreseeable future?
BD: I don’t disagree, I think its been good, but I also don’t wanna pre-suppose what might happen in the future. I certainly don’t think it was wrong to go to a game of the week, as opposed to regional coverage, but I’m not in a position with a crystal ball to what the future will hold.
SL: One of the things the NHL’s done a really great job with are these ‘tentpole events’ (All-Star Game, Winter Classic, NHL Premiere). Do you guys have the temptation to do more of them?
BD: I think its a fair point. One of the objectives and strategies to help build the league’s business has been to fill out an event calendar, and I think we’ve had a lot of success in doing that, probably over the last 3-4 years, and I would expect that to continue. I think that helps build demand for our product as well. It positions us in a good way.
SL: Where do you see the growth of the NHL Network going from here?
BD: Well, its grown a lot already, it’ll continue to grow. We hope by the end of this year, we’ll be in 50 million homes in the United States. From a distribution basis, its been very helpful to us. We feel particularly NHL fans to an extent are underserved as far as an ability to access our content. I think our NHL.com platform combined with our NHL Network has allowed us to connect with NHL fans in a better way than we ever have before. We’ll continue to build that out, both on the content side and the distribution side, and it’ll certainly get bigger. Its already very valuable property for us, and it should get more valuable.
SL: Do you see, in the future, going towards more summer programming? I know this is a unique summer to say the least, but you think having the occasional studio show during the summer would be useful to fans.
BD: Yeah, I think it dovetails with some of your prior questions in terms of building the year-round business, where people are talking about hockey year-round. There’s hockey news year-round, and I think we’re certainly moving in that direction. I would anticipate you’ll continue to see more emphasis on that.
SL: In that vein (of year-round hockey events), do you anticipate the return of the World Cup anytime soon?
BD: I do. I couldn’t tell you exactly when because I know its tied up with our relationship with the PA and our collective bargaining agreement, but yes. I think, again, historically that’s been a very valuable property for the league and the players’ association. I anticipate there will be a return of the World Cup in some form and that’s something that’s going to be discussed with, and resolved with, the players’ association. They’ve got other priorities right now. They’re working on them, and I certainly understand that.
SL: Finally, the Stanley Cup Final ratings are really great on NBC and VERSUS lately. Is there any desire from the league in the next TV deal, to get the entire Stanley Cup Final on network television?
BD: Its one of those things that I’m not going to pre-judge as things move out. I think the world’s gotten to a point where the differences between over-the-air, network television and premium cable channels has minimized, and I think it’ll continue to minimize over times. So I don’t think its as big a deal today or moving forward as it might’ve been 20 years ago. We’ll do a mix that will best serve our fans and best serve our interests in the long term.