NHL Network Picked Up By Major U.S. Cable, Satellite Distributors
The National Hockey League has reached agreements with most major cable and satellite distributors to carry the NHL Network in the United States.
The league, still recovering from a devastating player strike that sent TV ratings plunging, agreed to be carried on sports tiers, which will limit how many people will be watching at launch.
In its announcement, the NHL said the network will be available to 75 million homes, but sports executives said sports tiers have less than 10 percent penetration, so the network’s potential audience will be a fraction of that figure.
Other sports networks, notably the NFL Network and the Big Ten Network, have been fighting cable operators’ desire to place those channels on sports tiers. NBA TV, which is on sports tiers, has been stalled at about 8 million subscribers.
NHL officials declined to say how many subscribers they would reach on a sports tier.
“We think that our fans will come and find us on sports tiers,” said Jody Shapiro, the NHL’s group VP of television and media ventures.
NHL Network reached deals with Cablevision, Comcast, Cox Communications, DirecTV, Dish Network and Time Warner Channel.
Most of the programming will be similar to what is shown in Canada, where the network launched in 2001. The channel will show 50 live games in high-definition on the HD feed of the channel.
Games will be subject to local blackout when there are conflicts with local broadcast rights.
Mr. Shapiro said the network will be customized for the U.S. market and U.S.-based programming will be on the air by the end of the current season.