The NHL Stands By It’s Partners
April 20, 2011 Leave a comment
From Richard Sandomir of The New York Times:
The bidding also attracted to varying degrees Turner Sports, Fox (a former rights-holder), and ESPN — which offered about 15 to 20 percent less than NBC and Versus. The interest reflected the league’s attractiveness to young males; an 84 percent increase in national ratings the past four seasons; a 17 percent jump in Versus’s ratings this regular season and last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs being the most watched ever.
‘They’ve done a lot of good and smart things, like the Winter Classic, and their experimentation with the All-Star Game,” said John Skipper, the executive vice president for content at ESPN. “We think the value has appreciated and the sport has done very well. We like the people over there.”
The NBC-Versus unification under Comcast — the country’s largest cable operator and the parent of numerous regional sports networks, the Golf Channel, and others — seems to have eased concerns that the N.H.L. had to find its way to back to ESPN, where it could be featured more often on “SportsCenter.”
Bettman said, “I think everybody has enormous respect for ESPN but six years ago we decided to go in a different direction for a variety of reasons and we believe it’s worked out well for us.”
To help the package pay off, Versus will carry 90 games exclusively in the regular season, up from about 50. Exclusive games are worth more to advertisers. And up to 24 of the possible 28 conference semifinal games will now be exclusive to Versus, ending their availability on regional sports networks like MSG. The other four games will be on NBC. “We have the market power we need, for Madison Avenue for advertising,” said Dick Ebersol, the chairman of the NBC Sports Group.