NHL Network Comes to America
I’m very happy to say I’m watching the NHL Network right now at home, on my television. No tricks, place-shifting, online streams or anything like that. It’s coming right through my cable box. I have Time Warner cable in Manhattan.
The Hollywood Reporter has a story (dated tomorrow) that the channel is coming, but I’m already watching it.
Rumor was the NHL used the Center Ice package to leverage cable companies to carry the channel. It might explain why I wasn’t able to order it until the end of last week. I’ve been able to order it as early as March in previous years (not that I’ll do that again after being double-charged).
The NHL Network is on a sports tier for me that includes NBATV, a few Fox Sports College stations, the Tennis Channel, Fuel and College Sports TV. It’s a package I already subsribe to, so it’s just a big bonus for me. The sports tier is right below the Center Ice channels on my service, so despite the high channel number (458) the location fits well. My Time Warner service has about four blocks of sports channels (not including Fox Sports NY, which is “alone”), you’d think they’d move things around to make it a little easier.
There’s currently no schedule for the guide on my cable box, it’s simply long blocks of “NHL Network”. Hopefully that updates soon.
I wasn’t able to find many details about the Network launching in the States using Google News, but I did come across this very good Q & A with NHL EVP of corporate sales and marketing, John Collins. It’s a good read, with some honest answers.
BW: What marketing lessons were learned from the lockout that are now driving NHL growth?
JC: We are a $2.3 billion business, and a lot of that revenue is through the gates. We have 22 million people at our arenas every year. We have 53 million avid fans in North America. But the big insight we came to after the lockout is that our fans say they love hockey, but they don’t behave like they love hockey. They behave like a million fans of the New York Rangers, a million fans of the Chicago Blackhawks. The passion they have is at a local level, but that doesn’t translate to passion at a league level. If you are a fan of the NFL’s New York Giants, you’ll still watch Monday Night Football even if the Giants aren’t playing. You’ll watch the playoffs and Super Bowl even if the Giants don’t make it. But according to the traditional metrics that tell you about the health and vitality of broadcast ratings, we’re not able to scale at the national level of the NFL, MLB or Nascar. So we don’t feel like a $2.3 billion business; we feel like a $300 million business, like a niche sport like Major League Soccer or AVP [professional volleyball].
In the introduction to the piece is this tidbit:
On Oct. 9, the league will hold a fanfest in New York to celebrate the Oct. 12 opening of its flagship retail store, NHL Powered by Reebok, and its new corporate offices. Features include a hockey-themed Starbucks selling hockey-themed drinks, a studio for live broadcasts, high-def screens to show NHL clips and games in real time, and stations with access to NHL videogames and NHL.com.
I’ve had a good seat for watching the store come to life for a while now (I can see it from my office window). The past week or so things have really picked up. It still looks like there’s a lot to do, but I’m not a store-building expert.
There’s already a Starbucks inside the building the store is in that has little to no signage. It’s called the Secret Starbucks in my office because it’s one of the few places that rarely has a line mid-afternoon. Hopefully the store won’t take that from us… I mean hey, it’s NY, there’s a Starbucks on every corner, why not two?
I’ll try and stop by on opening day and snap a few pictures.
Update 1130pm: Just saw Costa caught the same Q & A. His reaction was similar to mine.