Wednesday, August 1, 2007

NHL talking to ESPN about replacing NBC

It's looking more and more as if NBC will not be renewing its contract with the NHL when it expires after this season. Heading into the final year of their contract, NBC is cutting costs every way it can. Instead of covering 3 regional games per week, there will be only one national game. Also reduced is the number of on air personalities, with Brett Hull, Bill Clement and Ray Ferraro gone this year. In their place, Pierre McGuire will perform double duty as both game analyst and "studio" host. Note that "studio" is in quotes, because NBC has also dropped its entire NHL studio at Rockefeller Center.

The good news is that if NBC does not renew its contract with the NHL, that will open the door for the league to go back to ESPN and ABC.

from William Houston of the Globe and Mail

The online publication SportsBusiness Journal reported this week that the NHL has started preliminary talks with ESPN about replacing NBC as a television partner in 2008-09.

In response, an NBC spokesman said it was premature to speculate on what the network will do with its 2008-09 option.

What's more, NBC will employ a flexible NHL schedule in 2007-08, from which it will pick the best matchup — a move that should push up ratings.