We have hit the point where all four major sports leagues have to broaden their broadcasting horizons. They can’t just be looking at the four ‘major’ television networks as the main outlets for the coverage of their games. And their specialty channels don’t seem to be getting the respect that earns them the coverage of live events. Media is changing, but accessibility to the games is not keeping up. The world keeps getting smaller, but the games i want to see, seem further out of reach.
Every hockey season, I get furious when there is a quality game out west, like Edmonton against Calgary, being shown on Roger’s Sportsnet West. But because I live outside of that “market”, the game is blacked out. Even though I subscribe to the channel, I can’t see the game, and get a black screen. How fair is that?
At this point, even the CBC has to start to realize that the Leafs suck and their games are pointless. But, nay nay. They are showing Toronto against Eastern Conference leading Boston tonight, which, while high scoring, was completely irrelevant to the upcoming playoffs. Others in the country got to see a game with playoff implications in the Montreal versus Buffalo match up. But, again, because of where I live, I’m not allowed to watch that game. Or for that matter, I can’t watch the other Canadian based team game, Ottawa against Atlanta that was on tonight. While that turned out to be a gong show to view, if I were a diehard fan, I might have wanted to see it. When will this bush hockey league run by possibly the most inept commissioner in sports today realize that “the market” is where ever there is a demand for the product? And by product in this case, I mean quality, meaningful hockey games. Who is running the promotion for the NHL? If I were that incompetent at my job, I’d be fired in moments.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman can go out twice a year and provide his ‘State of the Union” speech saying everything is sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. NBA Commissioner David Stern can do the same thing. But we all know, through that smoke screen, both of their leagues are losing money hand over fist. They need a new strategy and new broadcasting agreements. And they need them in a hurry.
Major League baseball has seemed to figure it out. During baseball season, it’s different. I can stay up and watch my Mets blow a late lead against the Dodgers, Padres, Giants, or Rockies. These games, while technically not in my ‘market’, are still being shown on these same channels that can’t show NHL west games. Why? It is due to good television deals, good marketing, and relatively decent league leadership. But still, problems exist.
If you go to NHL.com, you can watch all of the games for the day at the astoundingly ridiculous price of $19.95. I don’t want to watch ALL of the games. I want to watch one, maybe two of them. Why is this option not available to me? Has nobody in the corporate offices of this garbage league thought of that one yet? And no, I’m not dropping twenty bucks to watch a game on my computer. I’m a degenerate, but even I have my spending limits. I didn’t know until last week, that individual NHL games had been pirated free over the internet. But the NHL found out about this, and shut these sites down. You would think this has to be a wake up call for these people.
Now we have this whole TSN 2 vs. Roger’s battle going on in Ontario. It is threatening to set off a riot. Roger’s refuses to put this new channel on their broadcasting system. Thank goodness the Raptors and Leafs are both terrible this year. If they were in a playoff race and the suits at TSN decided to only show their games on TSN 2 out of spite, there would be chaos. What scares me is if this dispute does not get resolved by the time the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver arrive. TSN is the exclusive broadcaster for the games. There is no ‘partnership’ with both CBC and Roger’s Sportsnet so they can cover some of the events. What would happen if the powers that be at TSN decided to only show the Canadian Men’s hockey team games on TSN 2 thereby leaving Ontario out of its’ viewing audience? While the rest of Canada would be watching the game, there would also be a scene out of Frankenstein with people carrying torches down Younge Street, ready to seek and destroy.
The DirectTV deals and the sports packages offered by the cable companies are mass marketing ideas. The new satellite deal, which is different from the Sunday Ticket package, signed with the NFL recently, is beyond anything that a regular fan is going to possibly be able to afford. The NFL is a special case where we can normally only see three games on one day per week through regular cable. But leagues need to move past the thought of this mass money grab and focus in on the fans’ desire to watch what they want. I’m not spending a foolish amount of money per month on a package to have every baseball, hockey, or football game offered to me every night. I only want to watch what I want to watch. Why have they not figured this out?
These leagues need to look to alternate methods of getting their games out to their fans. Television will all be digital by 2011 and everyone will need a digital box to receive it. The term “ISports’, was thrown around on a popular talk show the other day, and I thought it was brilliant. While I don’t think Apple will be involved in Cable television any time soon this is the opportunity for the four major sports leagues’ to tap into the individual fan market. They can keep the regular, usual ‘market’ stuff going for those who accept that. But for those who want to see something else, they could offer it.
The music industry went through the same problem when Napster came out. They thought they would go broke, so they went to war against free downloads. I still think that music downloading is fair game. I thought the whole point of becoming an artist was to ‘share’ your work/artistic talent with the world. But, then along came Itunes. Almost everyone agreed that no one would pay $1.99 to download a song, when they can still find websites to get it for free. But, the morality of this world shone through, and Itunes has proven that this system of access to material can work.
I’d pay $3.99 to watch a game that meant something, on my television. I’m positive I’m not the only one, and this revenue can do nothing but help these floundering leagues in economic times that are not getting any better anytime soon. But until that day when they come to their senses, and proper broadcasting deals get done, I guess I have to put up with watching the Leafs lose…again.