NHL’s Goal: Triple Its Online PPV Package


National Hockey League fans can watch up to four live game telecasts (outside their home markets) at the same time on their laptops this season via an enhanced package on the league’s Web site.

That, along with other enhancements, could be enough to triple last season’s subscriber base for the $169 online service, which offers up to 40 live games a week, NHL Direct senior vice president Perry Cooper said. He would not provide subscriber figures for last season.

Along with offering up to four live games on one screen, “GameCenter Live” will feature one game each night that can be seen from different camera angles. GameCenter Live will also include photo galleries, in-game video highlights, live chats and an interactive scoreboard. Fans can choose from different audio feeds of each game.

“We have a low baseline of subscribers in an atmosphere where there is strong demand, so that points to a potential success,” Cooper said. “But it doesn’t happen without everything being aligned, so having a strong digital strategy and a satisfying Web experience will be critical.”

Subscribers to the league’s $169 “NHL Center Ice” out-of-market game package on cable and satellite TV get the online component for $84.50, or half price, Cooper said.

The NHL and Major League Baseball are the two major sports leagues that offer an online live game package sold separately, and not just a free extension of the league’s out-of-market TV package. Subscribers must buy the National Basketball Association’s “NBA League Pass” or the National Football League’s “NFL Sunday Ticket” linear service to avail themselves of those leagues’ online game streams.

NHL broadcast partner NBC — which will air up to 25 combined regular-season, playoff and Stanley Cup Finals games this season — is looking at the prospect of streaming its NHL telecasts but has not made a final decision, a network spokesman said. NBC.com currently streams an isolated player cam during live telecasts. 

Versus, slated to show 56 regular-season NHL games in 2008-09, has no plans to stream telecasts on Versus.com, network officials said.

Cooper also said the league is putting the final touches on a major marketing push for the Center Ice TV package. “It’s a much more mature product [than the online plan], with a lot of awareness in the marketplace, but it has tremendous importance for us as a company and we value our affiliate relationships very much,” he said.