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NHL, EPL will make solid partners on NBC

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Why NBC's deal with the Barclays Premier League is a winner for both soccer fans and hockey fans.

Shaun Botterill

Sometimes, you just can't win being a hockey fan.

Forget the fact that, you know, we're not really playing professional hockey right now. There are some situations where people within this hockey universe just don't seem to get how this stuff really works. Like the people who criticized the NHL for leaving ESPN, for spurning ESPN a second time two years ago. You can't win with them, even when you explain all of the reasons the NHL has been better off not being on ESPN -- more games, highlight shows, having the network built around you -- they still look at you with an extreme, unnecessary skepticism.

They, of course, lead you back to the complaint that NBC hasn't done anything to build around hockey. It's a network with hockey and little else. Well, NBC did something about that this weekend, acquiring media rights to the entire Barclays' Premier League slate for the next three seasons, starting in 2013-14. It's a perfect, complimentary fit for NBC and for hockey. NBC will air matches on Saturday afternoons, while NBC Sports Network (and, among a potential boatload of other networks) will air games on Saturdays and Sundays. English Premier League games do not go past 2:30 p.m. ET, in most cases.

Seems like the perfect way to complement hockey with another growing sport with a hardcore niche of fans OH WAIT ALLAN WALSH TWITTER FREAKOUT TIME:

Okay, let's debunk this multiple ways.

  1. The NHL has a 10-year, $2 billion contract with the NBC Sports Group. That's well over $200 million a year. The EPL deal is a total of three years (as is Premier League custom) for a combined $250 million plus. $83 million a year. Even if this is a big expenditure for NBC, doesn't the fact that NBC makes hockey an even bigger expenditure mean this won't matter?
  2. As I said before, NBC will air EPL games on Saturdays. They don't air NHL games on Saturdays. NBC Sports Network will air games on Saturday and Sunday mornings and afternoons. The NHL only airs on Sunday nights on NBC Sports Network, in addition to the Monday-Wednesday package.
  3. The NHL's contract with NBC is in place for 100 games a year across two network, you can't exactly change that.

Walsh wasn't done, and Bruce Dowbiggin of The Globe & Mail was willing to join in on the circus of madness.

Uh, all of their games occur on the weekend? In timeslots where the NHL is nonexistent! You know, I watch pretty much an average amount of sports. I spent 12 hours yesterday watching two football games and a baseball game. People will deal with it.

The difference here is that NBC has more than likely acquired English Premier League action because they lost out on all the sports that could have potentially "marginalized" the NHL. Baseball? Gone. Every major BCS conference except for the Big East? Gone. Football? Still not getting the Thursday Night Package away from NFL Network. The NBA? Still years away from a new TV deal.

As a matter of fact, I do. You know why? BECAUSE THE NHL IS STILL TECHNICALLY ON WHAT THAT NETWORK BECAME. For those of you who've never heard of me, my website, the NHL or it's televised history before, a review: OLN became VERSUS, which was purchased by NBC and became the NBC Sports Network.

Oh, come on. Do I really need to do this again? Even if the NHL is damaged goods, they are damaged goods with a 10-year contract. NBC and the league are stuck together for a decade. This deal with the EPL will last three years for now. I think the NHL will be okay.

We'll talk more about the NBC-EPL deal when we get closer to the actual start of it, but for now, I think this is a great move. I think hockey and soccer share equally disenfranchised fanbases and I think there's some crossover there. This is good for NBC, which is good for the NHL, as hard as it is for these gentlemen to believe.