I’ve been pretty silent about the NHL and its labour dispute, but before you start laughing at the above title, check out the post of the same name by Matt May, in which he says:
The NHL is going to need a full-court press to get and keep the fans’ attention and interest. OLN will also need to increase its exposure, as it treats its NHL content as a draw for its other programming. And Comcast, which owns OLN, is heavily invested in digital cable and broadband Internet. Comcast will be pushing NHL content on its on-demand cable services as well as online.
So, we’re most of the way there: a sports league and a television network both with a vested interest in reaching people more people than they currently have access to. This is a great situation for podcasting, and even better for video in RSS enclosures. I don’t think we’re quite ready for full-game feeds, and we may never need them, given the real-time nature of sporting events. But OLN will be creating hockey-related content around their coverage, and that’s no good to them if nobody is watching it at 11pm. They will already be offering it on demand. Why not serve an MPEG for download on their own broadband network?
He makes a number of good points in his post, noting for example that ESPN recently refused to pick up the NHL coverage for the next few seasons, forcing he league to hook up with the Outdoor Life Network. NBC has also picked up rights for the next two seasons, but without any license fees. Basically, it comes down to the NHL needing to be creative in finding delivery vehicles for its content.
Would people subscribe to NHL podcasts? Might seem crazy, but I think you’d be surprised. Websites for sports are often extremely cutting edge, with advanced real-time statistics, audio, and video, so it’s not unlikely that at least some fans would be willing to try it out. It’s definitely an interesting idea.
While the other major sports in the US are all still swirling their toes in the online water with monthly subscription charges for streaming content, the NHL has a real chance to rebuild by letting more people in. There are millions of monthly impressions to be had. Even OLN and Comcast stand to benefit in this arrangement by increasing their own profile. It would be fascinating for everyone involved to see the league and the network take such a bold step.
I don’t think podcasting is going to “save hockey”, but I think it would be an excellent experiment in delivering content to fans.