Does the NHL Possibly Want People to Watch Hockey? - Colorado Avalanche Updates, News and Game Reviews at Avs Talk

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Does the NHL Possibly Want People to Watch Hockey?

By gum, I think the NHL has started to realize that increasing the reach of your product and getting people engaged in it is the best way to attract and retain fans. The concept had completely escaped them for quite some time and it appears they could - and I stress "could" - be coming around.

NHL Expands Television Reach to Asia
In surprise news - at least to me - the NHL is set to announce a multi-year deal to distribute NHL games throughout a large portion of Asia, including India and China.

In one fell swoop the NHL has expanded the television reach of their product from 5% to 40% of the world. Those numbers are based on my rudimentary knowledge of world population, not data I got from an official source so don't quote me on it.

No matter how you slice it, a 700% increase in your viewership reach is cause to celebrate. If just 0.1% of those new potential viewers are fans, that's 2.5 million more eyes watching the true "beautiful game".

Centre Ice Online Expands to Europe
It was just a couple weeks back that I was reflecting on my "Why doesn't the NHL Want People to Watch Hockey?" post. A post which still gets traffic from people searching for solutions to their troubles with Centre Ice Online.

The reason being that I had started a post in a similar vein which was focused on why the NHL will send players halfway across the globe to kick off the season in Europe, yet won't alloww access to their Centre Ice Online offering to people outside of North America.

However, it turns out that Europeans are now able to subscribe to the service. I'm not sure why the question includes the Middle East but makes no mention of whether folks in the Middle East can subscribe or not. Maybe they think Europe is the Middle East??

NHL Offline
I've also both applauded and bemoaned the NHL's online content offerings. The technology was very rudimentary and the look was very pre-2000 era. They didn't even roll out a real-time game tracker system until mid-last season!

Their YouTube highlights deal is laughable and the speed and completeness of the updates to their section has been spotty and suspect.

The stats pages are well-done - except for the absence of shirt charts - but having them auto-refresh during the game doesn't count as "live updating" in my book.

Overall, I would give them a C- on what they've offered to fans.

TSN Fills the Gap
TSN got on the ball and rolled out a live scoreboard feature* towards the end of last season. It was...ok.

But should networks be relied on to the fill the gap for the league? Not in my mind.

Stats, Stories and Recaps...Oh My!
And it appears some folks over at the NHL head offices have decided that they've had enough as well.

Not only are they set to launch a new version of, but they will be rolling out the much anticipated NHL Game Center feature.

The feature rebrands NHL Centre Ice Online as Game Center Live and will also provides free real-time stats, a play-by-play game tracker known as "Ice Tracker". It will also include in-game highlights, live chat and radio broadcasts.

On the surface, it doesn't sound too different from the existing Scores section of their website. However if you watch the video on what will be provided, you can see the stats are more consumer-friendly and the ice tracker looks like an invaluable tool. Hopefully they will still provide access to the near-raw log files that stats junkies desire.

And if "in-game highlights" means highlights uploaded as the game is going on, well let's just say the my inner hockey nerd and the little tech geek inside me will be holding hands and dancing for joy.

Yahoo! for fantasy hockey?
At the same time, the NHL has also announced that they are partnering with Yahoo! to provide "the #1 fantasy games experience on the Internet".

Last year, our fantasy football league was done using CBS Sportsline but this year, we switched the Yahoo! which allows for more teams. I preferred the Sportsline offering.

However, if the description of what the NHL/Yahoo! partnership will provide is accurate, they just might come through on the claim that it will be #1 for fantasy sports.

The main benefit of this partnership is integrated video footage straight from the NHL which will be tied to each player. So you can track your players progress through the season and research for your next blockbuster trade using stats and video without needing to leave the site.

That is genius and, if properly implemented, will single-handedly bump it above any fantasy hockey offering I know of. picks up the story
The NHL has done enough with their new offering to get what I would almost call "mainstream" coverage from Cnet's I'm sure that caused a lot of back patting and cork popping in the NHL's marketing division.

The article contains one details that I didn't spot anywhere else. The Game Center Live feature will utilize Flash for the streaming video, doing away with Windows Media Player. A very savvy - if not obvious - move on their part.

The article also contained some choice quotes from the NHL's senior VP of marketing, Perry Cooper. To summarize he informs us that NHL fans are tech savvy, are not "non-affluent", and don't necessarily cheer for the nearest team.

That's a lightbulb that needed to go off some time ago in the marketing department.

If this all gets pulled off properly they could launch themselves all the way to an A- report card.

"Illegal" Streams
There are of course other ways to catch games online, though not with any sort of service guarantee. One of the best ways to check out many live sporting events is via

If Yahoo! still streams games this year but requires you to be in the States, you can always get around that by using a free proxy server based in the States. Huge lists of proxies are easy to come by on the ol' Interweb.

Also, as noted by Jibble this morning, often has NHL game feeds.

*Note: I wouldn't have pimped my other, near non-existent blog but I couldn't find a release from TSN on the new feature. If anyone locates one, I'll gladly switch the link.


Jibblescribbits said...

I only advocate my p2p for people in areas unable to get their local broadcast with no other options.

Shane Giroux said...

Totally. If you have a legal means to get the feeds, do so.

Let's face it, watching hockey in hi-def is much nicer than watching it in a tiny screen on your computer.

But when you have no other options, well, you do the best you can.

Draft Dodger said...

I can't give them an A- until they start showing preseason games.

so, is Netvibes messing up all the blogger rss feeds or it blogger?

Jibblescribbits said...

Well with both P2P and JustinTV are feeds of local/TV broadcasts, so if the preseason isn't televised, they can't be on either of those

Shane Giroux said...

I've caught a few preseason games on TSN (Pens-Leafs and Oilers-Panthers) which is more than I remember catching last year. Though I think the NHL Network had aired a couple.

It seems to be an issue with the networks not caring to air the games. Altitude could pick it up and carry the preseason games but they must figure there's just not enough demand for it.

If the NHL would tell teams to carry those games, and then get Center Ice going before the regular season starts, that would be sweet.

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