Sunday, September 30, 2007

NHL Network set to launch in United States on October 1st

I originally posted an entry about this news story four days ago, but I thought it would be better to update it into a new one instead.

Back on Wednesday, I saw a bit of new information posted over at HF Boards' business of hockey section and it caught my attention. Remember when I started this blog nearly two months ago that there should be a sense of urgency to bring the NHL Network to the United States and help build a loyal audience in the process?

No major news organization had discussed this publicly yet until now. During today's broadcast of the second game in the NHL Premiere series between the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, viewers were informed that the NHL Network will launch in the United States tomorrow.

Unless you are an HDNet customer, American viewers didn't have access to a live television broadcast feed of the series' first game yesterday from the O2 Arena in London. Versus picked up the NHL Network feed from Canada. The announcement was made during the middle of the first period, but it did not provide information of which carriers will have NHL Network available at the launch date.

As early as October 16th, the NHL Network will be offered to Comcast cable television customers in the Pittsburgh television market, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a Pennsylvania Public Notices news release.

Cox Communications issued a press release that by October 30th, the NHL Network will be available for their cable television customers in northern Virginia on their Digital Sports and Information channel tier. The Orlando Business Journal reported on Friday that Bright House cable systems in central Florida will be adding the NHL Network sometime in November.

I'm waiting to see how negotiations with other large cable companies such as Time Warner Cable and Cablevision turn out considering they dominate the New York City television market. If the NHL wants to make sure the largest customer base in the country gets the new channel, they better make sure these two cable providers are taken care of. It's a good bet we'll hear more details in the coming days about exactly when and where the NHL Network will be added among the cable and satellite providers.

This is only good news for American fans to have a channel of their own here dedicated to just NHL programming. The NBA has had it since 1999. The NFL has as well since 2003. Major League Baseball will also eventually launch their own channel in 2009. But in order for the NHL to successfully compete for viewers in this country, the league better fulfill their promise coming out of the 2005 lockout that they would bring the NHL Network here. Some Canadian fans that have had NHL Network since 2001 have expressed some disappointment or lack excitement over its overall content. But perhaps that could change if the NHL wants to capture more American viewers by making some changes to really bring an even higher quality of programming to the channel, not just have the majority of its programs come from the Canadian side that is run through The Sports Network (TSN).

The NHL Network completes their nine-game preseason telecast schedule in Canada tonight and as announced in a CTV Media press release, the Canadian channel will feature a 40-game regular season telecast schedule (five of them are "fan favorite" games). There has been no announcement yet on the broadcast schedule for the NHL Network in the United States. Viewers north of the border will have the priviledge to see a free preview of the NHL Network during the upcoming month and at least through October 9th, fans in both countries will get to watch a free preview of NHL Center Ice during the first week of the new 2007-2008 NHL season.

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