When NBC dropped the puck on its coverage of the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs earlier this week, it did so with the hopes of boosting viewership by offering wall-to-wall live coverage across several networks and platforms.
Along with airing every first-round playoff games across four networks — NBC, NBCSN, USA Network and CNBC — its telecasts were not blacked out for the first time in local-team markets since NBC Sports Group acquired the NHL’s rights in 2005. Boston and Pittsburgh were the only markets where first-round blackouts remained in place, NBC said.
“The fans are the real winners here,” NBC Sports and NBCSN president of programming Jon Miller said of the side-by-side telecasts. “They now have more options than ever to watch first-round playoff coverage of their local teams.”
The losers could be the regional sports networks, which will now have to compete with national network coverage for eyeballs — although for most hockey fans, local-team telecasts are often more palatable than national network coverage.
At worst, NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood said the new setup should eliminate the confusion over which games are blacked out in which markets. “Now you know where to go,” Flood said during a pre-playoffs conference call with reporters. “We like that. Simplicity is a good thing.”
On the digital side, the NBC Sports app will provide live streaming of every NHL playoff game televised by NBC, NBCN, USA and CNBC, giving hockey fans multiple points of entry to watch live playoff games on multiple platforms.
With baseball season in full swing — and with the LeBron James and Kevin Durant-led NBA Playoffs launching this weekend — NBC Sports is hoping its one-stop shop approach to distributing the chase for the Stanley Cup will keep hockey’s post-season excitement competitive in a crowded TV sports arena by streamlining the fan experience and making the competition easier to find.