NHL Stops Its Season, TV Executives Shrug Shoulders

Television network executives have responded to the end of the National Hockey League season with a big yawn. Are hockey marketers sleepy as well? The business press hasn't focused on NHL marketers too much. With the NHL's ratings suffering over the past several years, there hasn't been an upside for anyone.

For national TV outlets ESPN and NBC, the end of the hockey season means little loss of revenue, and in some cases, an upside with replacement programming. ESPN's ratings for its original TV show, "Tilt" at a 1.1 rating were far above the 0.4 rating regular season hockey games earned. College basketball games' ratings are also up over hockey. Mark Shapiro, ESPN senior vice president of programming, only regrets that ESPN prides itself on carrying all four major sports and this year, due to the strike, the network was unable to do that, according to the Hollywood Reporter. He adds, hockey needs to be more TV-friendly.



That has been a long time complaint of the sport. Hockey is a different experience when seeing it live. For TV, the big puck, the colored big puck, and the streaming trailed colored puck, have all failed in their attempts to make the show more viewable.

Financially astute, NBC already knew the score of the NHL coming into this year and offered a deal based on advertising revenue sharing - a deal made for economically unstable leagues like the NHL. ESPN, likewise, was cautious coming into this season's contract, only having a one-year contract with two one-year options.

Daily Variety notes that TV outlets have been hurt only locally in cities such as Detroit, St. Louis, and Boston -- cities with strong hockey fans -- and, of course, even more fan-crazy markets in Canada.

Basically all this isn't good news for NHL executives. Worst still, devaluing ESPN's point, it doesn't bode well for hockey continuing to be one of the United State's top four major sports. Ratings are so low, that if you are a long time NHL sponsor or TV advertiser of the sport, you have to wonder whether primetime bull riding on OLN might be a better choice.

The bulls are bigger than pucks.

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