Chicago Blackhawks Lead the League at NBC

The newest television schedules are out for the 2014-15 season and the Chicago Blackhawks lead the lot by, well, a lot.

The Blackhawks will be featured 20 times over the upcoming season on national television, according to the schedule below, tweeted by Tracey Myers of CSN Chicago.



In contrast, the Pittsburgh Penguins, another team with a die-hard fanbase will only be featured 11 times, while five of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s games will be broadcast.

Approximately zero games featuring the New York Islanders will be broadcast. This contrast is particularly interesting since Forbes calculated that the Islanders bring in more revenue than the Lightning, but that’s a subject for another day.

While the Islanders have a metro area population of 19.1 million, the largest in the United States, they must share the area with the New York Rangers who control the largest portion of revenue ($131 million a year to the Islanders’ $61 million, according to Forbes).

For comparison, Chicago has a metro area population of 9.6 million, Pittsburgh 2.4 million, and Tampa Bay 2.9 million.

While the NBCUniversal network hopes to cash in on Chicago’s popularity, with parent company Comcast having paid $2 billion for the rights to a 10-year deal in only 2011, this is not the way to go about it.

Granted, Chicago’s Game 7 in the Western Conference Final against the L.A. Kings pulled a 22.7 television rating in Chicago, the third-largest market in the U.S., and a 3.17 nationwide. The game actually set a ratings record for the NBC Sports Network, breaking the previously-held record set in 2013 by the Chicago-Boston Game 3 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.

Oct 1, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Patrick Sharp (10) stands with teammates as the 2013 Stanley Cup championship banner is raised to the rafters before the game against the Washington Capitals at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
(Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports)

The Blackhawks are known for having incredibly passionate fans who come or tune in to every game and drop money on team-affiliated merchandise, the spending of which correlates to how much NBCUniversal will be able charge for ad time during Blackhawks games over the upcoming season.

There is no doubt this is a fantastic business opportunity for NBCUniversal over the next season, but is it a shortsighted move on the company’s part?

To saturate the market with Blackhawks games will do two thing: a) reduce the significance of seeing a Chicago game on national television and b) prevent other teams, such as the Islanders, from finding a larger fanbase. The former you can argued with; the latter you cannot. This lack of national coverage in a large league can put a team already struggling in its market in jeopardy.

As a Blackhawks fan I’m not complaining about the additional games I can look forward to watching on national television. I do, however, think NBCUniversal is missing an opportunity to bring in more money down the road.

While the Islanders bring in approximately $50 million less per annum than the Blackhawks in stadium revenue, they will soon be making the move over to Brooklyn. Once easily accessible to the New York Metro area (one could argue that Long Island is easily accessible, but everything is relative when public transportation is your main jam) there will be nothing preventing the Islanders from raising attendance and thus revenue.

When interest in a team goes up, so does the possible ad revenue.

If NBCUniversal is smart, the company will make sure to get some Islanders games — and other ignored teams — on the schedule pronto, or at least for the following season.