NBC Sports Network May Have Separate Contract with Notre Dame Hockey

From Mike McMahon of the Eagle-Tribune, in a story about the Fighting Irish’s decision to join Hockey East:

Notre Dame’s decision was based largely on television. Soon, each conference in the country will announce its own television deal with NBC Sports Network (what Versus will turn into in January) to air college hockey games nationally. Notre Dame has reached its own agreement with NBC Sports to air its games, separately from the conference contract.

The NCHC, according to sources, was reluctant to go along with Notre Dame’s television wishes.

Devils-Flyers Improve VERSUS Pre-Season Numbers

VERSUS saw growth from it’s pre-season debut to it’s pre-season finale, if the numbers for Thursday are any indication.

The last of the network’s exhibition broadcasts, a Devils-Flyers tilt, drew and 0.1 rating and 102,000 viewers. This was a growth of 34% over the network’s opening pre-season broadcast of Maple Leafs-Flyers (68,000 viewers). Note that, while the latter game aired in neither home market on VERSUS, New Jersey-Philadelphia did air in the New York market. The game grew 81% from the episode of NBC Sports Talk (20,000 viewers) that aired before it. VERSUS followed up hockey with a new episode of their football series, NFL Turning Point (66,000 viewers).

Ratings for VERSUS Monday (Rangers-Flyers) and Wednesday (Red Wings-Blackhawks) were unavailable at this time.

Your NHL National TV Schedule For the Opening Week

Thursday, October 6

Philadelphia vs. Boston, 7:00 p.m. ET, VERSUS

Play by Play: Mike Emrick
Color: Eddie Olczyk
Inside the Glass: Pierre McGuire

Montreal vs. Toronto, 7:00 p.m. ET, CBC

Play by Play: Jim Hughson
Color: Craig Simpson
Inside the Glass: Glenn Healy
Reporter: Elliotte Friedman

Pittsburgh vs. Vancouver, 10:00 p.m. ET

National TV (Canada): CBC
Play by Play: Mark Lee
Color: Kevin Weekes
Reporter: Scott Oake

National TV (US): VERSUS
Play by Play: Dave Strader
Inside the Glass: Brian Engblom

Friday, October 7

NY Rangers vs. Los Angeles, 1:00 p.m. ET, VERSUS
Play by Play: Mike Emrick
Color: Pierre McGuire

Anaheim vs. Buffalo, 1:00 p.m. ET, TSN2

Saturday, October 8

NY Rangers vs. Anaheim, 1:00 p.m. ET, VERSUS/TSN
Play by Play: Dave Strader
Color: Pierre McGuire

Los Angeles vs. Buffalo, 2:00 p.m. ET, TSN2

Tampa Bay vs. Boston, 7:00 p.m. ET, NHL Network (US)

Ottawa vs. Toronto, 7:00 p.m. ET, CBC
Play by Play:
Jim Hughson
Color: Craig Simpson
Inside the Glass: Glenn Healy
Reporter: Elliotte Friedman

Pittsburgh vs. Calgary, 10:00 p.m. ET, CBC
Play by Play:
Mark Lee
Color: Kevin Weekes
Reporter: Scott Oake

Sunday, October 9

Montreal vs. Winnipeg, 5:00 p.m. ET, CBC/NHL Network (US)
Play by Play:
Jim Hughson
Color: Craig Simpson
Inside the Glass: Glenn Healy
Reporter: Scott Oake

What’s New on Puck the Media This Season

Here’s an introduction to the new features on the site this season:

  • Random CitiesThis is the thing I am most excited about. Instead of flat, same ol’ same ol’ interviews, I’ve come up with Random Cities. I ask various broadcasters around the league to talk about various NHL and minor/college cities they’ve been to for entertaining anecdotes from their travels. The first one, with the legendary Bob Miller, goes up next Monday, and the plan is for them to run every other Monday throughout the year.
  • Weekly Announcing Schedules – Instead of doing it every night, the announcing schedule will go up once a week, and act as more of a weekly TV schedule from VERSUS, NBC, NHL Net, CBC and TSN. Announcers will ideally be all set at the start of the week, but if there’s a change or add-on, it’ll be reinserted on the top of the page. The first one goes up at 2 p.m. ET today. On weeks where there’s a Random Cities, it’ll go up at Noon ET. On weeks where there isn’t one, it’ll be up at 10 a.m. ET. On weeks when I’m expecting NBC ratings, it’ll go up at 2 p.m. ET. Just check in every Monday to find it.
  • More Frequent Ratings – I’m very proud of how, with help from frequent collaborator Son of the Bronx – the site has become a real go-to for NHL ratings in the states. Those will be more frequent, considering the games will be more frequent. I’m hoping to do the same for CBC.

That’s it, for now. I hope you enjoy the season, and thank you for reading Puck the Media, as you and I head into our fourth NHL campaign together. Wow, right?

HNIC Returns with New Weekly Show, Jets Special

October 3, 2011 – The wait is finally over as CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA (@hockeynight) drops the puck on its 59th season with a dynamic, action-packed opening weekend featuring the best matchups, special events, features and broadcast talent in the industry. Plus, the Winnipeg Jets are back!

“The return of NHL action on CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA is always cause for celebration, but it’s especially sweet this year as we say ‘welcome back’ to the great hockey city of Winnipeg and celebrate the return of the Winnipeg Jets,” said Julie Bristow, executive director of studio and unscripted programming for CBC Television.

It all gets underway on CBC Television, Thursday, Oct. 6, at 6:30 p.m. ET, with Molson Canadian NHL Face-Off, live from The Forks in Winnipeg, including live musical performances from Three Days Grace and hometown legends Bachman and Turner. Ron MacLean hosts the broadcast from the AirCanada Centre in Toronto, while CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos (@strombo) emcees the festivities from The Forks alongside new Hockey Night teammember Andi Petrillo.

Following the celebration pre-game show, the game takes centre stage as the Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Montreal Canadiens, at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the Vancouver Canucks versus the Pittsburgh Penguins, at 10 p.m. ET. DonCherry makes his much-anticipated return with Coach’s Corner inthe first intermission of Leafs-Habs. Fans will also be treated to coverage of the Stanley Cup banner raising in Boston.

New to the CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA lineup is the weekly show HNIC Game Day, a full hour of hockey coverage every Saturday, debuting Oct. 8, at 5 p.m. ET. Hosted by the team’s newest member, Andi Petrillo, and veteran P.J. Stock, this one-hour show will set the table for the evening’s games, and also feature stories and interviews about the culture of hockey with the players, personalities and famous Canadians thatlove the game. Hockey Night favourite Stock begins his fifth season with the broadcast, while fan favourite Petrillo joins from Leafs TV, where she hosted and reported.

Saturday night then sees Scotiabank Hockey Tonight, at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by Ottawa at Toronto, at 7 p.m. ET, and Pittsburgh at Calgary, at 10 p.m. ET.

Rounding out the weekend, one of the most anticipated hockey games in recent memory, as the Winnipeg Jets return to the NHL against the Montreal Canadiens, Sunday, Oct. 9, live from Winnipeg. Scotiabank Hockey Tonight sets it all up, at 4 p.m. ET, then the puck drops at 5 p.m. ET. Prior to the game, glimpse the passion this city feels for their team with the documentary Fuelled by Passion – The Return of the Jets, an in-depth look at the re-birth of the NHL in Winnipeg and what it means to fans, players, teams and the league. It airs both Friday, Oct. 7, at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT), and Sunday, Oct. 9, at 3 p.m. ET.

CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA’s schedule this season includes special events such as the 2012 NHL Winter Classic featuring an outdoor game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers; the 2012 NHL All-Star SuperSkills and 59th NHL All-Star Game from Ottawa; and the much-anticipated Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada, the 12th annual day-long celebration of the game featuring four Canadian matchups and coverage from Charlottetown and Summerside, P.E.I., on Feb. 11.

Coach’s Corner will be back every Saturday, with the legendary Don Cherry in his 32nd season with CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA. The Hotstove also returns with MacLean, Mike Milbury, Kelly Hrudey (@KellyHrudey), Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC), Eric Francis (@EricFrancis) and P.J Stock as regular contributors, providing commentary on the latest issues and rumours around the NHL. After Hours with hosts Scott Oake (@ScottOake) and Kevin Weekes (@KevinWeekes) rounds out the full night of hockey with live post-game interviews featuring NHL players and personalities.

New this year is Elliotte Friedman’s role. He’ll be manning the Chevy iDesk, taking viewers behind the headlines with his insider reporting on the game’s biggest stories. Jim Hughson, Bob Cole, Mark Lee and Dean Brown will provide hockey fans from across the country with the very best in play-by-play. Expert analysts Craig Simpson, Glenn Healy, Greg Millen (@GregMillen), Garry Galley, Weekes, Hrudey and Milbury all return this season, and rink-side reporting duties and expert analysis will be provided by Elliotte Friedman,Cassie Campbell-Pascal (@CassieCampbell) and Oake.

Joining the all-star cast this season is David Amber (@DavidAmber), CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA’s newest Eastern Conference rink-side reporter, while newcomers Rick Ball and Daryl Reaugh will join the West Coast broadcast team covering the Jets, Flames and Oilers.

Former NHL front office executive, author and veteran radio personality Gord Stellick (@GordStellick) also joins the Hockey Night family as host on HNIC Radio on SIRIUS Satellite Radio beginning Oct. 3 on Channel 97 and Chanel 127, airing Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m.E.T. Stellick will be joined by co-hosts Hrudey, Simpson and Campbell throughout the season to provide insight and analysis on all matters in theworld of hockey.

The complete broadcast schedule of the 2011-12 season is available on the newly re-designed CBCSports.ca, the fan’s online home for hockey. Along with its new look providing enhanced navigation for fans, the site will continue to include up-to-the-minute hockey news, live and on-demand video streaming of every game and expert blogs, including Friedman’s 30 Thoughts column, and regular insights from Tim Wharnsby (@WharnsCBCSports). Also new this year, are re-designs for Hockey Night’s popular iPhone and iPad applications, keeping fans up to date with instant access to stats and results from all NHL games, along with live streaming.

Time For the NHL to Show Serious Growth in America with New Television Deal

It was an NFL Sunday and a Major League Baseball Postseason Sunday, but the NHL had a presence. Viewers reported seeing ads on CBS’ broadcast of New England-Oakland for the Bruins opener, at least in the Boston area. Meanwhile, during NBC’s Sunday Night Football marquee matchup between the Jets and Ravens, the NHL’s opening night doubleheader on VERSUS got at least three promos (and a live read from Al Michaels) on their corporate partner network. This is something that you weren’t seeing a few years ago. NBC, of course, has two billion reasons to give the NHL on VERSUS/NBC Sports Net an advertising presence on it’s highly-rated Sunday Night Football telecasts. The fact the NHL had an advertising presence on a massive football Sunday just a few days before their season’s opening face-off, however, was a great buy for the league, and part of why there aren’t any excuses for the NHL to improve itself into a better television player over the next decade in the NBC corporate family.

This could be a huge season for hockey on TV. The league is adding nearly 25% more games on it’s cable television partner, and doubling the number of exclusive games on VERSUS. For now, we must operate under the assumption that the NBA will be gone for at least a little while, and perhaps a full year. College football is in a down year, ratings-wise. Baseball numbers continue to slip (though, let’s be honest, a Yankees-Tigers Game 5 on NHL Faceoff Thursday would be a massive ratings killer). Now is the time for hockey to strike, to increase it’s share of the sports television marketplace.

NBC seems to be making it clear that hockey is one of their marquee properties. They’re relaunching a sports network with what is essentially hockey games (with some college football, MLS, IndyCar and an increased studio presence mixed in). The NFL’s much talked about first-half Thursday night package, even if VERSUS is the favorite, is at least two years away. College football is nice, but with the Big East collapsing, the Pac-12 moving out and the Mountain West’s growth stalling, there’s not much room for NBC to increase it’s presence there. Major League Baseball’s TV deal is still likely at least a year away from bidding, and one can bet ESPN wants those post-season games, while Turner won’t want to budge on losing them. The message is pretty clear: The NBC Sports Network is betting on hockey for now, as Comcast’s OLN and VERSUS bet on hockey for so many years.

That’s why seeing all the advertising for hockey during the NFL was so encouraging. Football is this country’s religion. 15-20 million people per week will watch a bad Sunday night game on NBC. The network is also home to the Super Bowl. NBC may be unable to draw flies for entertainment programming, but their sports properties have a real track record for success. Think to yourself: did you ever remember seeing promos for ESPN hockey coverage on ABC’s Monday Night Football? I hope this isn’t only an opening night thing, and we’ll see hockey promos every week, leading up to Super Bowl Sunday (NBC Sports Net is actually airing a game that afternoon while NBC handles pre-game coverage).

The NHL has done a marvelous job at setting up tentpole events. The Winter Classic is the most-watched regular season game each year, and while Rangers-Flyers at Citizens Bank Park on January 2nd isn’t exactly knocking anyone’s socks off, it is no slouch of a game either. Taking a year off every four years and creating more events to surround it seem to have boosted the All-Star Game, which has grown each season it has been on VERSUS. The Stanley Cup Playoffs getter better numbers each season as well, to the point where VERSUS is getting better numbers than ESPN. This season, expect them to grow even further with exclusive games from round two on, and every playoff game finding a television home on the NBC family of networks. (You’re watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the Style Channel!) The NHL is finding growth in places both expected (the Winter Classic getting bigger) and unexpected (Hockey Day in America, and who saw the NHL All-Star Game finding renewed relevance coming?) to create a more exciting hockey calendar. With Face-off in October, the Black Friday NBC game in November, the Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend in January, and Hockey Day in America and Canada in February, there’s more to look forward too in what was once a sea of regular season tilts for eight months before the greatest tournament in sports.

What are my hopes for this season? That the league will start to flex some muscle on VERSUS. How about (again, if there’s no Yankees on Thursday) one million viewers for Bruins-Flyers on Thursday? Why not? The league drew 730,000 on opening night last year (for the non-banner hanging Penguins-Flyers game) against the Yankees-Twins series. This year, you’ve got so much around the game that can draw viewers. There’s a Boston market dying to move on from the sadness of the Red Sox demise. A Philadelphia more than a little curious to see how Paul Holmgren’s massive shakeup affected the team. Hockey diehards will want to see the return of Jaromir Jagr. So why not a million? If there’s no baseball (or merely Rays-Rangers) I’d be surprised if the game didn’t even come close. Hey, if 100,000 people want to watch a pre-season Devils-Flyers game, there must be anticipation.

Last season was the most watched NHL slate in VERSUS history. The network drew 353,000 viewers per game, up from 297,000 in 2010-11 and 311,000 in 2009-10, despite having increased coverage from 10-11 to 11-12. Now, will the even greater exposure improve hockey ratings? Or will the market become diluted? I’m honestly not sure, but one would think VERSUS and the league will find a way to keep ratings at least on par with last season, if not up. The games will struggle against Monday Night Football and general early season malaise, but once January rolls around and the NBC Sports Network push happens, there needs to be a respectable increase. The doubleheaders between and NBC and NBCSN will be an equally intriguing experiment, to see if ratings for big-market match-ups that weren’t quite good enough for NBC draw well on Sunday nights.

How studio programming surrounding NHL games on VERSUS grows will be another story. NBC Sports Talk has drawn okay numbers on Friday nights when Peter King and Mike Florio preview the weekend’s NFL action, but aside from that, Sports Talk and Monday evening’s College Football Talk have been bust with no real programming to get viewers to VERSUS early in the evening. Hopefully, hockey can help that, but if not, where does VERSUS turn? Is there a way to bring NBC football host (and VERSUS’ NFL Turning Point head-man) Dan Patrick’s radio show to the network? What about a mid-day/afternoon call-in show featuring King and Florio and another high profile host to get viewers to the network even earlier, and create a bit of a buzz while ESPN and ESPN2 launch talk show after talk show themselves to supplement the hours and hours of SportsCenter? VERSUS still maintains a big split between the viewers who tune in for outdoor programming during the day, and hockey/sports talk at night. Is there any way to reach out to both and make the network more of a destination? Perhaps not, but it is certainly worth trying.

In addition to all of that, NHL Overtime is returning, but not in a way that hockey fans may see as ideal. Overtime – which will star Bill Patrick and Jeremy Roenick (hey, how about getting him a show?) – now only airs three nights a week (after VERSUS’ NHL games) until January, when it will expand to Friday and Sunday (another VERSUS NHL night). This is a bit baffling, considering there is almost always more NHL action on Thursdays and Saturdays than Fridays and Sundays. It also, essentially, gives VERSUS a 90-minute post-game show, as there will be no break in between NHL Live (the actual post-game) and NHL Overtime. But as long as Roenick provides us with some entertaining soundbites, and they continue the practice from last year of updating west coast highlights for the 2 a.m. ET rerun, there is potential for the program.

I’d also like to see the league finally start to grow the Game of the Week on NBC. Let’s face it, even as the playoffs grow and the Stanley Cup Final grows, ratings on NBC remain stuck in first gear. The overnight ratings for NBC slipped from a 1.2 to a 1.1 last year, and that’s despite the Winter Classic growing and Hockey Day in America being a solid draw. The league has never really grown the sport in the regular season indoors, but there seems to be a real attempt to correct that this year. The Black Friday tilt between the Bruins and Red Wings should do at least an okay number, and a Red Wings-Blackhawks game just 10 days after the Winter Classic is the earliest the network has ever started their post-Classic telecast schedule. They can only do so much with the limited teams they program. I’m of a mind that the league should go back to regionalizing, and while the one game on NBC/one game on VERSUS method is a way to increase hockey’s presence on Sundays, I’d still like to see a back-up game to get more teams and fans into the national mix.

The NHL Network has a part to play in this performance, too. The league’s channel does a good job during the regular season, certainly better than it’s woeful off-season programming, but they must find a way to add destination shows. Doing four hours live from Boston on opening night with Marty Turco and Mike Modano is an improvement. But look at how MLB Network fills the hours of the day. Look at NFL Network. NHL Live (the NHL Network version) is fine. NHL On the Fly is fine too. Can’t we do more, however? Is there not someway to fill, say, the hours of Noon-5 p.m. ET with more than just replays from the night before? I hope the Network is improving, and have a lot of faith that it will. Showing an enormous amount of games helps.

Which is the main reason why, even with all the questions, I am as optimistic about this season from a league-wide, television standpoint than I have been for any since I started following all this. There will be live hockey almost every night of the season. We’ve gone from a Monday/Tuesday night OLN game, with maybe an NBC game thrown in, to hockey all around the calendar year. By the time spring rolls around, we’ll have been dealt four nights a week on VERSUS, three nights a week on NHL Network, and NBC on Sundays. Improvement or not, it has never been better to be an American hockey fan. Hopefully, it will be better than ever to be in the business of televising hockey, too.