As many of you know the NHL is looking for a new cable television deal in the United States after getting kicked off of ESPN. ESPN didn't want to spend $60 million a year in rights fees so they said get lost to the NHL.
The main contenders for a new cable television deal in the United States appear to be Spike and Comcast. Those would be the two likeliest possibilities at this point. Spike TV already has the rights to the WWE and other extreme sports, but more importantly it has national distribution, so NHL games would be assured of being seen everywhere (unlike back in the dark ages when Sportschannel America was the rightsholder to NHL games). Spike TV is also available in Canada and so there might be a possibility we could see those games up here (depending on TSN's reaction; they might try and block it from happening, but the NHL ultimately would have the final say here).
Comcast already runs a number of regional sports networks in the United States and have carried NHL games locally in places like Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., but they have big plans for a national network. What they are looking at doing is possibly starting up a new sports network to rival ESPN. ESPN is also a possibility but they are not going to ante up the $60 million that they agreed to before.
Here's an article on what Comcast is hoping to do. They are looking at killing OLN (the American version, anyway) and replacing it with a new all-sports channel. Key to the deal would be coverage of the NHL and possibly a deal for National Football League games. The NFL is looking at a cable partner for Thursday and Saturday games beginning in 2006. If they get the NFL distribution of the channel would basically be assured. The coverage of the Tour de France, which was OLN's highest rated show, would continue to be a cornerstone of the network.
I dunno about you but it sounds a little risky. Then again there seeems to be an insatiable appetite for sports in the US. Just this year ESPN launched a new all-collegiate sports network in addition to their original two networks and ESPN News. There's also the Golf Network, Speed Channel, the NFL Network, NBA TV, and the regional sports networks Comcast, Fox Sports Net and MSG, plus several more. And don't forget TNT and TBS, two mainstream channels that have heavy sports coverage, plus all the regular networks and local stations. The competition is fierce down there.
I don't know whether it would work, putting NHL games on Comcast, but the NHL needs a TV deal in the United States. Fast.