The ongoing National Hockey League labor dispute last week delivered a collective body check to NBC Sports Network and several regional networks forced to find replacement programming after the league cancelled the first two weeks of the NHL season.
The NHL announced last Thursday (Oct. 4) it was cancelling regular-season games through Oct. 24 due to a nearly three-week lockout. The lockout marks the fourth work stoppage for the league since 1992, including the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season.
NBC Sports Network, which has 100 live NHL telecasts scheduled for the upcoming season, will replace nine games lost due to the cancellation with a combination of boxing, soccer and college football and basketball, according to a network official.
The network, which is in the second year of a 10-year, $1.9 billion rights deal with the league, averaged 332,000 viewers for its 2010-11 regular-season NHL coverage. The NHL is arguably NBCSN’s highest-profile and mostwatched property.
“It’s unfortunate that the lockout is causing the cancellation of games from our schedule,” said an NBC Sports spokesman. “We look forward to presenting the NHL to its fans as soon as the labor situation is resolved.”
The NHL lockout also leaves a number of regional sports networks scrambling to find replacement programming for lost NHL games. Fox Sports, which owns and/or operates 12 regionals distributing NHL games, said in a statement it is “still hoping for a full season or something close to it. In the end, we believe that some very smart people on both sides will figure out a way to reach an agreement that works for everyone with minimal loss of games.”
The league’s own NHL Network will lose four of its 78 regular season games. In their place, it will air a variety of programming, including live Canadian Hockey League games and repeats of popular programming such as HBO’s 2010 24/7: Penguins/Capitals Roadto the Winter Classic in its entirety, according to network officials.
ESPN said it will air at least seven games from Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League on its ESPN3 broadband service beginning Oct. 9. They will feature several NHL All- Stars, including Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar, the network said.
With the NHL’s cancellation of the first two weeks of regularseason play due to the work stoppage, NBC Sports Network and several RSNs are sending in replacements.