There’s a rumor circulating that Comcast and the National Hockey League are on the verge of a broadcast agreement. The purported deal would involve two games per week on OLN. It’s not clear what other games would be allowed to be televised, although there is another outstanding agreement with NBC for some games late in the season.
One reason this OLN strategy might make sense for Comcast/OLN is the substitute argument that is being floated by several folks today: with Lance Armstrong retiring from the Tour de France, OLN can no longer be the “Only Lance Network” and the channel will have to find other content. If this argument holds, and more hockey fans subscribe than cycling fans unsubscribe, then revenues increase.
Another reason this strategy could be attractive is what I think of as the portfolio strategy. From a US audience perspective, both cycling and hockey are niche sports (oddly, they are two of my three favorite sports, with soccer being the other … OK, so I’m not representative!). Hockey plus cycling offers a portfolio that gives each fan sufficient coverage during their respective seasons that they are willing to keep the subscription even during the off-season. Add to that the probability that there are more fans like me, who are both cycling and hockey fans, then their subscriptions increase and, hopefully, by more than they have to pay for the broadcast rights.
But only two games per week … seems slim to me. Is it worth it to me to subscribe for only two games per week? Why isn’t the NHL offering more? Have they done market research to determine if there’s sufficient value in offering more?
I’d also like it if they got rights to women’s soccer, US and European. But that might be too small a niche!