Wednesday, April 11, 2007

500 million just doesn't buy what it used to!

The CBC having just promised a half a billion dollars to Gary Bettman and his fellow NHL sharks found out how quickly ones affections can fade once the cheque is in hand.

This Saturday Night's Hockey Night in Canada flagship program, will feature Tampa Bay and New Jersey in a game that should keep countless dozens locked in their seats.

In a strange move from the NHL head office, the Senators-Penguins game three match up will be broadcast in the afternoon so NBC can feature it on their Saturday program.

Rather than provide their most loyal broadcast booster and long time partner with a premiere game to show in prime time, the NHL in one of its frequent lets shoot ourselves in the foot modes, decides that the network that pays no rights fees and splits whatever ad revenue can be scrounged up, is a better place to showcase the most anticipated showdown of the first round.

The Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts have always delivered big numbers for the NHL and for the CBC, but this Saturday night is looking to be a disaster for the iconic television show.

Rival broadcaster TSN has picked up the rights to the New York Islanders/Buffalo Sabres series, which of course will be a hot property in Southern Ontario and promises a wee bit of drama with Ted Nolan facing off against his former employer. Don't expect anyone to rush into the office Monday morning to look over the ratings comparisons. This one should be slaughter for TSN.

Perhaps one day the NHL will realize that the strength of its game lies in that apparent wasteland above the 49th parallel. Throwing away a potential audience of 2.5 million for the off chance that you might increase an NBC audience by a few thousand seems rather silly.

While the CBC will show the Sens/Pens game on Saturday afternoon the audience won't be near the potential money maker that Saturday night would have promised, making this Saturday just short of a complete wash out financially for the network that pays for its hockey.

Interestingly enough though, Saturday will mark the debut of Donald S. Cherry on American airwaves, as he teams up with Jeremy Roenick on the NBC broadcast, part of shared use agreement between the two networks. Consider this our warning shot Mr. Bettman, mess with the nation's treasured television show again and we'll let Don loose full tilt!

This decision to dismiss the only market that follows the game with any sense of passion of course must make sense to someone in the NHL offices. Perhaps TSN"s monkey Maggie has been recruited to make broadcast decisions for the league, her choices make about as much sense as this one does.

Hopefully, the CBC made those rights cheques out as post dated ones, these partners of theirs don't deserve one dime delivered until the first day of each month.

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