The Outdoor Life Network has broken into the NHL hockey broadcast market. Rights to show 58 regular season games and some playoff were obtained by cable giant Comcast for $200 million US. ESPN, who has carried NHL hockey for 20 years declined to match the offer from Comcast.
I think this is a good move for OLN as NHL hockey looks to make a fresh start after a long lockout wiped out the entire 2004/05 season. The changes made to level the competitive playing field on and off the ice will generate a lot of interest from hockey fans and OLN will cash in on this.
The rules have been modified somewhat in an attempt to make the game faster and more entertaining to new and borderline hockey fans in the US. The new $39 million team salary cap will eliminate the past disparities in total salaries paid for each team. Some team payrolls were over $70 million while poorer market teams barely cracked the $20 million mark. This gave big market teams a distinct advantage when it came to attracting the more expensive star players.
Revenue sharing was another important ingredient in the new labor deal which came out of the lockout. The new system requires the top ten revenue generating teams to share some of their earnings with the bottom ten teams in the 30 team league.
The new NHL is poised to become a major player in the professional sports market once again and ESPN will be sitting on the sidelines.
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