Yesterday, we debated the relationship of ESPN, Disney and the NHL. Today, as I flip between CNBC, ESPN News and BSH, I am watching Jeff Immelt of GE discuss wind turbines and auto battery chargers for the CNBC audience. However, it is likely that he won’t be as much a star at CNBC for long, since it’s rumored that the DOJ and FCC are about to approve the Comcast/NBC Universal merger (purchase from GE). I think this will have several impacts for NHL Fans.
First, Versus will likely be put into the NBC Universal business unit, and I think it will be rebranded (remember OLN?) as S-NBC or the “NBC Sports Channel”. Comcast would then go after ESPN with a vengence. S-NBC would have a much broader appeal to the average sportsfan, like ESPN, with the exception that the NHL would have much more prominence on S-NBC than it currently does on ESPN. It is likely that coverage between CSN, S-NBC and NBC would be much more seamless, like ESPN/ABC at Disney.
Overall, for those of you still in Philly, the transition probably won’t be significant, with the possible exception of better production values in S-NBC broadcasts (sorry, can’t help you with the commentators).
For those of us expatriates, and other out-of-town Flyers fans, there might be more significant changes. Comcast is likely to push for basic cable placement of S-NBC on a wider variety of carriers (right now, on my system, Versus is premium; recall the wars NFL Network had with Time Warner and others). The leverage they’d have is that S-NBC would likely be bundled with the very profitable CNBC, as well as MSNBC, Bravo and other channels. This of course might result in higher cable rates overall. Off-topic, Comcast’s opposition to net neutrality may be consternating to those of us in favor of that. In any case, Comcast has never been known to “give away content”.
For all of us, net net, it is probably good news in that the NHL might finally get some serious coverage and cross-business-unit publicity to regain mindshare. We can expect more Darren Rovell stories on Chris Pronger and Patrick Kane to cleanse us from all the LeBron-style hype.
(Apologies in advance for any protocol or grammar glitches, this is my first fanpost).