College hockey is an entertaining game, however, very few of the games are ever on television. In many cases, fans huddle around their computer screens or watch a fuzzy, standard definition webcast uploaded to their television screen. This is done, via an s-video cord.
If this sounds like grumbling, it is. College hockey lacks what I consider an acceptable television deal. Sure, some teams have their regional individual television deals, but as a whole, college hockey is under covered. In almost every case, college hockey takes a back seat to division I college basketball and FBS football.
CBS Sports Network has great college hockey coverage, “when” they show games
The NCHC has an exclusive multi-year television agreement to show at least 18 hockey games with CBS Sports Network. Instead of showing college hockey every Friday night during the college hockey season, CBSSN show other sports as well. Last month, CBSSN showed no college hockey games what-so-ever. Zero, not one!
What’s puzzling to me, CBS Sports Network decided to pass on attractive NCHC match-ups during the month of November (Saint Cloud State vs. North Dakota, Miami vs. Saint Cloud State, Colorado College vs. Denver and finally Miami vs. Nebraska-Omaha) to show alternative programming. That’s a real head-scratcher, because those were all good hockey match-ups. Someone at the NCHC conference office should be scratching their heads, too.
This past Friday, game one of the North Dakota vs. Western Michigan series was on the CBS Sports Network. Friday’s broadcast went off without a hitch, it was perfect. When there’s hockey on CBSN, the hockey coverage is second to none. Why not double down on that coverage?
NCHC Schools webcast’s work in progress
Last night, I tuned in to watch the University North Dakota Hockey and Western Michigan play the second game of a two game series. There was no television coverage for game two of the series. We had to watch the game on a WMU webcast. To put it lightly, game two was unwatchable.
My brother-in-law has a subscription to the UND Insider, so he was able to get the Western Michigan webcast on his laptop computer and we attempted to watch the webcast on his television. As we have two other times, we watched another unwatchable broadcast from one of the NCHC’s member schools. It was unacceptable.
It was obvious that Western Michigan University wasn’t ready for the influx of UND viewers that logged on to watch their universities webcast. The webcast froze, it was slow, and we ended up having to listen to the game on the radio.
There has to be a better way to market NCAA hockey
When the NCHC was formed, Colorado College Athletic Director Ken Ralph said this in July of 2011.
“We’ve received some preliminary contacts, without us reaching out yet, from [networks] that are interested in carrying our games,” Ralph said. “Television is much more about exposure than it is about revenue.
“We’re going to be working to craft the best possible multimedia deal that we can. We want to make sure this league gets exposure.”
I am probably jumping the gun, but based on that statement, I think that the NCHC has stumbled coming out of the gate with their multimedia deal. There has to be a better way to get television exposure for college hockey.
I don’t understand why the division one college hockey can’t come up with their version of a college hockey Center Ice? You would think this could be a potential big-time money maker. I am hopeful, that eventually college hockey will “get it” like the other college sports do. A delayed telecast on a satellite or cable provider is better than no broadcast at all. Serious college hockey fans will pay more money to get the games that they want to watch. The proof, they’re spending money on webcasts, not fit for viewing.
In conclusion, college hockey fans don’t want to have to use complicated technical gadgets to view a hockey game. How can you not conclude that the NCHC has taken a step back? These same fans, the season before, could view their team’s games on their cable package or satellite provider. When they have to purchase the webcasts and the gadgets to watch the games, and they’re still not able to see the games, they become angry. Do you blame them?
Eric is a 1996, 1999 graduate of the University of North Dakota. Eric covers the University of North Dakota Hockey and Division I college hockey. Eric is the Contributing Editor for Inside Hockey.