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NHL on SportsChannel America
SportsChannel.JPG
Also known as NHL on SportsChannel
Genre Sports
Created by SportsChannel America
Directed by Larry Brown
Billy McCoy
Starring See announcers section below
Country of origin  United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
Production
Executive producer(s) Jeff Ruhe
Producer(s) John Shannon
Cinematography Terry Ford
Dean Anderson
Bob Boykin
Marty Muzik
Running time 180 minutes or until game ends (including commercials)
Broadcast
Original channel SportsChannel America
Original run 1988 – June 1, 1992

NHL on SportsChannel America was the presentation of National Hockey League broadcasts on the now defunct SportsChannel America cable television network.

Contents

History

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Terms of the deal

Taking over for ESPN, SportsChannel's contract paid $51 million ($17 million[1] per year[2]) over three years, more than double what ESPN had paid ($24 million) for the previous three years[3]. SportsChannel America managed to get a fourth NHL season for just $5 million[4].

SportsChannel's availability

Unfortunately, SportsChannel America was only available in a few major markets[5][6], and reached only a 1/3 of the households that ESPN did at the time[7]. SportsChannel America was seen in fewer than 10 million households[8]. In comparison, by the 1991–92 season, ESPN was available in 60.5 million homes whereas SportsChannel America was available in only 25 million. As a matter of fact, in the first year of the deal (1988-89), SportsChannel America was available in only 7 million homes when compared to ESPN's reach of 50 million[9]. When the SportsChannel deal ended in 1992, the league returned to ESPN[10] for another contract that would pay $80 million over five years.

SportsChannel America took advantage of using their regional sports networks' feed of a game, graphics and all, instead of producing a show from the ground up, most of the time. Distribution of SportsChannel America across the country was limited to cities that had a SportsChannel regional sports network or affiliate. Very few cable systems in non-NHL territories picked it up as a stand alone service. Regional affiliates of the Prime Network would sometimes pick up SportsChannel broadcasts, but this was often only during the playoffs. SportsChannel America also did not broadcast 24 hours a day at first, usually on by 6 p.m., off by 1 or 2 a.m., then a sportsticker for the next 16 hours.

Philadelphia

Since SportsChannel Philadelphia did not air until January 1990, PRISM (owned by Rainbow Media, the owners of SportsChannel, at the time) picked up the 1989 Stanley Cup Finals. Other than that, there was no NHL television coverage in Philadelphia except for the Flyers for the first half of the original deal.

Lawsuit

Shortly after the ESPN deal was signed, SportsChannel America would contend that its contract with the NHL gave them the right to match third-party offers for television rights for the 1992–93 season. SportsChannel America accused the NHL of violating a nonbinding clause. SportsChannel America argued that it had been deprived of its contractual right of first refusal for the 1992–93 season. Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court justice Shirley Fingerwood would deny SportsChannel America's request for an injunction against the NHL. Upholding that opinion, the appellate court found the agreement on which SportsChannel based its argument to be "too imprecise and ambiguous" and ruled that SportsChannel failed to show irreparable harm.

Coverage overview

Regular season coverage

SportsChannel America would televise about 80–100 games a season (whereas ESPN aired about 33 in the 1987–88 season). Whereas the previous deal with ESPN called for only one nationally televised game a week, SportsChannel America televised hockey two nights a week in NHL cities and three nights a week elsewhere.

It was very rare to have a regular-season game on SportsChannel America that wasn't a regional SportsChannel production from the Chicago Blackhawks, Hartford Whalers, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders or Philadelphia Flyers. The San Jose Sharks were added in 1991–92. As previously suggested, SportsChannel America for the most part, used the local telecasts. The dedicated SportsChannel America station was little more than an overflow channel in the New York area for SportsChannel New York.

Special programming

In 1989, SportsChannel America provided the first ever American coverage of the NHL Draft[11].

In September 1989, SportsChannel America covered the Washington Capitals training camp in Sweden and pre-season tour of the Soviet Union. The Capitals were joined by the Stanley Cup champion Calgary Flames, who held training camp in Prague, Czechoslovakia and then ventured to the Soviet Union. Each team played four games against Soviet National League clubs. Games were played in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and Riga. The NHL clubs finished with a combined 6–2 record against the top Soviet teams, including the Red Army club and Dynamo Moscow. Five of the eight contests were televised by SportsChannel America.

All-Star Game coverage

SportsChannel America was the exclusive broadcaster of the 1989 All-Star Game. The following year, they covered the first ever NHL Skills Competition and Heroes of Hockey game. SportsChannel America would continue their coverage of these particular events through 1992. In 1991, SportsChannel America replayed the third period of the All-Star Game on the same day that it was played. That was because NBC broke away from the live telecast during the third period in favor of Gulf War coverage.

Production

A fair amount of times in their first season, they would use their own production services for games. But very rarely would this sort of practice occur in the last three seasons. Since programming was so sparse otherwise on SportsChannel America, usually the games were replayed immediately following the live telecast.

For playoff coverage[12], if any of the aforementioned teams made the playoffs, SportsChannel America would focus on those teams, using their facilities. Sometimes, they would use the CBC feed for other series (the Boston Bruins-Montreal Canadiens series, for example). For the Stanley Cup Championship, SportsChannel America would use their own facilities. They would also use their own facilities for any Conference Final series that did not involve one of SportsChannel's regional teams.

John Shannon was the senior producer of The NHL on SportsChannel America.

Announcers

Bob Papa[13] and Leandra Reilly were the studio hosts during the regular season coverage. For the Stanley Cup Finals, Jiggs McDonald served as the play-by-play man while Bill Clement was the color commentator. Also during the Stanley Cup Finals, Mike Emrick served as the host while John Davidson[14][15] served as the rinkside and intermission anaylst.

Play-by-play

Color commentary

Studio personalities

Commentating crews

See also

See also

References

  1. ^ The league's most pressing headache, though, is that the cable sports networks are turning off. The NHL's $17 million-a-year contract with SportsChannel America has expired after three seasons, and ESPN's reported offer of $4 million for a package of games for one season has disappointed the league. NHL president John Ziegler insists that getting the league back on ESPN (the NHL had a contract with ESPN from 1985 to '88), a network that reaches 59.2 million homes, is not the league's highest priority. "Not in the sense that you would give the game away and devalue your product just to do it," says Ziegler. But exposure, not dollars, should be the NHL's primary concern. Lucrative TV contracts just aren't available to the NHL. At least ESPN would make the NHL look like a major league. Why would a league with a commitment to expansion not want to expose itself to the broadest possible audience?
  2. ^ Granted, the $2 million a year each team takes in from the league's combined TV deals with the Canadian Broadcasting Company and SportsChannel America doesn't compare with what teams in other sports get from their national television packages.
  3. ^ Meanwhile, the league is negotiating a new television contract (the current deal with SportsChannel America expires after this season) and will add three teams in the next two seasons despite critics who claim expansion will dilute the NHL's talent level.
  4. ^ Lemieux was not finished: "And they wonder why we can't get a national TV contract." Indeed, the NHL's contract with the SportsChannel America cable network brings the league only $5.5 million in television rights fees this season, less than one third of last season's take.
  5. ^ Unfortunately, his presence in L.A. will do little to promote the sport nationally; the NHL, displaying an uncanny knack for shooting itself in the foot, recently rejected ESPN's bid to carry its games on cable in favor of SportsChannel, a regional cable company that will not penetrate markets where the league is traditionally weak.
  6. ^ Joel Nixon said in areas where SportsChannel has many subscribers, there's been good response. But to the 83 percent of ESPN subscribers who can no longer receive NHL games during the height of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the move from 50.6 million-home ESPN to 8.5 million-home SCA is hugely unpopular.
  7. ^ ESPN's loss of the NHL to SportsChannel America, a cable distribution service, is a fire alarm for sports fans. The NHL is the first blue-chip league to have its championship series move in part to pay-cable. ESPN is considered "basic" cable. Starting next season, only about 10 million U.S. homes will have access to the NHL; ESPN reaches about 47 million homes. And while virtually all cable viewers received the NHL games on ESPN as part of their basic monthly service, some 20% of SportsChannel's viewers (those within 50 to 75 miles of major cities, where interest in hockey is greatest) will have to pay as much as $12 a month extra for them next season.
  8. ^ The bad news for hockey fans is that without baseball, SportsChannel America, which holds NHL broadcast rights but isn't available in most sections of the country, may have a harder time expanding into new territory.
  9. ^ The absence of a league-wide TV deal in the U.S. is just one example of how the lords of hockey have let their lust for immediate riches blind them to the big economic picture. Three years ago, the NHL went for the bucks when it shunned ESPN and its 50 million subscribers to sign a more lucrative television deal with SportsChannel America, a fledgling cable outfit that reached only four million homes. The league figured that SCA would narrow the audience gap between itself and ESPN, but that hasn't happened. When its three-year, $51 million pact expired after last season, SCA sharply reduced the amount it was willing to pay for hockey, and other TV networks have scarcely been more forthcoming. The NHL, to its dismay, may well start the '91-92 season without a national U.S. TV contract.
  10. ^ After spending four years in transmission remission, in the cable backwater of SportsChannel America, the National Hockey League has returned to the big leagues of ESPN. That's the good news. The bad news is that 60 million homes will now see for themselves why the NHL is known as the migraine of television sports.
  11. ^ SportsChannel America will broadcast first two rounds.
  12. ^ SportsChannel senior vice president, says the cable network won't hesitate to ``cut away from blowouts as it makes plans to cover 84 games in the NHL playoffs.
  13. ^ Now Papa is handling SCA's studio duties during the cable network's coverage of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs.
  14. ^ In fact, SportsChannel borrowed Davidson from MSG for this year's Stanley Cup finals.
  15. ^ "One of the many things Mario does well is conserve energy," says former NHL goaltender John Davidson, a thoughtful observer of the NHL who served as color commentator for Sports-Channel America during the finals. "He conserves fuel. People think he's lazy, but that's not true. He's just smart."

External links

Preceded by
ESPN
NHL cable television carrier in the United States
1988 - 1992
Succeeded by
ESPN

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