According to several press reports, the league has come to carriage agreements with each of the major cable and satellite companies that serve customers in the United States. They include DirecTV, Dish Network, Comcast Corporation, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and Cox Communications.
The National Hockey League official web site only posted a short press story from The Associated Press on Monday to announce NHL Network has launched. Gee, how thoughtful of NHL.com to let us know. You'd think they could've done better in an announcement let alone promoting the new channel to fans. The only way that the league can prove me wrong is after all the major carriers have added the NHL Network to their channel lineups, maybe just maybe there will be significantly more press coverage and promotion of the new channel.
In addition to Pittsburgh-area Comcast customers expected to receive NHL Network by October 16th, John Ryan of the San Jose Mercury News reports that hockey fans in the San Francisco Bay Area that have Comcast as their cable provider have just received the channel as of 5:00 PM Pacific Daylight Time yesterday (October 10th). Other Comcast customers across the nation (including the Philadelphia television market) are expected to have NHL Network by Halloween.
Thanks to the Buffalo Sabres' recent on-ice success that sparked a increase in fan interest in western New York State, it is one of the top viewing markets in the country. Even though on a national scale that Time Warner Cable was the first to offer NHL Network at its launch, 310,000 customers in the Buffalo area will not have any idea when they'll get the channel as mentioned by Buffalo Business First reporter James Fink.
Dish Network has targetted October 17th as their initial availability date, but as Keith Barnes of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reports, only those customers that have high-definition television (HDTV) service can get it at the start.
A PR Newswire press release posted at CNN Money's web site reveals that Cablevision came to terms on a carriage agreement last Friday. According to this Cable Rant forum topic thread, Cablevision will make NHL Network available to customers (including at least 3 million in the New York City metropolitan area alone) on October 18th. If you have Cablevision's iO Digital Cable service, you will find it on channel 401 of the $4.95 per month iO Sports Pak or on channel 429 if you would prefer it packaged with an NHL Center Ice subscription. No word yet on whether any of this includes an HD channel. More on that issue in a bit.
Unlike the NFL Network's ongoing problems in making itself available to a larger subscriber base, the NHL Network will allow cable and satellite providers to have the channel on digitial sports tiers and customers would pay an additional fee to receive it. The NFL wants no part of it and prefers to have it available just as much as basic cable channels do, somewhere along the lines as ESPN. The NFL may have a much larger fan base than the NHL here, but I say good luck to you on your little quest. Expect to be in for the long haul over that fight to get NFL Network on basic cable.
Will all the cable and satellite companies that have come on board to offer NHL Network to American television homes also package a full-time HDTV channel of it as well? Lord only knows how long it will be for it to be on channel lineups, but first thing's first. Get NHL Network's primary standard definition feed onto them. But at least Intelsat has signed a distribution service agreement with the NHL to make it available in the near future.