After NBC Sports owned the sole broadcast rights to the NHL for 16 years, two networks (TNT and ESPN) will share the league’s rights beginning this season. The NHL’s 2021-22 season begins on Tuesday night on ESPN. TNT will have a doubleheader Wednesday with the New York Rangers vs. the Washington Capitals (7:30 PM ET) and the Chicago Blackhawks vs. the Colorado Avalanche (10 PM).
Before the season gets underway, the lead broadcast team of Kenny Albert, Eddie Olczyk, and Keith Jones took some time to answer questions about the upcoming season and want to continue building on what they had established before last season came to an end.
“For the last 16 years as part of the NBC team, I think NBC did such an unbelievable job, said Albert. “We will try to continue the legacy and raise the bar even higher. Turner’s always willing to try new things, they pride themselves on storytelling and educating. Hopefully, we will be able to do all of those things.”
Even though the trio is new to TNT, they aren’t new to each other. That could be critical in terms of separating their broadcasts from the others.
“The chemistry for the 3 of us took front and center. TNT, to be a part of their big family, it’s going to be very exciting. It’s a new challenge. We know a lot of eyes will be on us. We have a job to do. We are going to entertain. We are going to be ourselves,” said Olczyk
Albert has experience being a part of a network that shared the NHL broadcast rights when he was doing play-by-play for the NHL on FOX from 1995-1999. During that time, FOX and ESPN would split the Stanley Cup Finals. As Albert mentioned, they used to joke at FOX that all the series would end in sweeps. He told BSM that with the league’s TV rights once again split between two different networks, it will feel a lot like those old days.
“I’m sure we will have a little bit of friendly competition with Boucher and Ray Ferraro and some of the other guys. It can only help raise the bar. The three of us and Brendan [Burke] and Darren [Pang] and the entire studio crew, we are all competitors and we want to be the best. We will be keeping an eye on those ESPN games. I think personally it will only help as far as raising the bar and raising the competition level. Yes, we want to be better than those guys for sure.”
Players are feeling the excitement of the NHL’s new media deals. Keith Jones can relate to that because he was a player when FOX got the rights to the sport.
“I thought that was pretty cool and that it was an opportunity for us to continue to grow the game. I think as players, they all want to take hockey to a new level. They want to compete with the other major sports and they want to make sure that they show just how great of a game they play and how great they are. I think they are going to embrace it even more than they have in the past. Having a couple of networks going head-to-head only makes it more exciting for everyone involved.”
Having the NHL means more opportunities for TNT to use its partnerships with the NBA and All Elite Wrestling for cross-promotion. Eddie Olczyk believes that should be great for the network and the league. He wouldn’t rule out the possibility of maybe the Inside The NBA guys playing a part in some broadcasts.
“I think everyone knows Charles Barkley loves the NHL. He loves the NHL Playoffs. It’s the one question that I’ve probably gotten more since I have become a part of the family. ‘You think Charles will be on the hockey call at any point?’ And I’m like I sure hope so. Maybe we can get Charles and Shaq and Kenny and Ernie over there and have some fun or get them on-site. I don’t know. I would assume it’s going to happen at some point.”
ACC Network Set To Debut On Comcast Xfinity
“No official date has been set for the network’s debut on Xfinity.”
There is always a mad scramble to work out carriage deals before a company launches a new cable network. Before the ACC Network debuted in 2019, Disney and ESPN secured deals with AT&T, Charter, DirecTV, DISH, Google Fiber and Verizon Fios. It was missing Comcast. That company’s Xfinity cable system is the largest in the country.
Xfinity subscribers will get to see the ACC Network for the first time in the coming weeks thanks to a deal between Disney and Comcast. As part of an agreement to renew the carriage of ESPN networks, the Disney branded channels, Freeform, the FX networks, and the National Geographic channels, Comcast has agreed to pick up the conference network and pair it with the SEC Network, which was already a part of Xfinity packages.
“We are very pleased to have reached this comprehensive agreement with Disney to continue providing Xfinity customers access to their content across our industry-leading platforms,” Rebecca Heap, Senior Vice President of Consumer Products & Propositions for Comcast Cable, said in a press release.
ACC Network will now be available in nearly 20 million more homes as a result of the deal. No official date has been set for the network’s debut on Xfinity.
“We’re very happy to extend our longstanding relationship with Comcast and continue to provide their Xfinity customers with Disney’s best-in-class programming,” Sean Breen, Executive Vice President of Platform Distribution at Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, added. “In addition to our news, sports and general entertainment offerings, the launch of the ACC Network in the coming weeks, paired with the renewal of the SEC Network, will give Xfinity’s college sports fans long-awaited access to their favorite games.”
SEC Network Devotes 72 Hours To Georgia vs Bama
“On Monday, ESPN announced its full slate of shows that will lead up to the game on Saturday afternoon.”
Just like that, the college football regular season has come to a close, and the focus for FBS fans now shifts to the penultimate point of the overall season: conference championship weekend.
While all of the Power 5 conferences will be crowning champions, the eyes of the college football world will be on Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta as Georgia meets Alabama in the SEC title game. SEC Network recognizes that and has dedicated the 72 hours prior to kickoff, and immediately after the game also, to programming focused on the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide colliding for a berth in the 2021 College Football Playoff.
On Monday, ESPN announced its full slate of shows that will lead up to the game on Saturday afternoon. As expected, all the SEC Network staples will be live and on-location in Atlanta.
It all begins on Thursday, Dec. 2 at 1:30 p.m. with the SEC championship press conference hosted by Dari Nowkhah. Viewers will hear from Alabama head coach Nick Saban, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. Paul Finebaum will go on the air with The Paul Finebaum Show starting at 3 p.m.
Check out the full weekend schedule below:
Thursday, Dec. 2
- SEC Now: SEC Championship Coaches Press Conferences, 1:30 p.m.
- The Paul Finebaum Show, 3 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 3
- SEC This Morning, 8 a.m., on location at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC)
- The Paul Finebaum Show, 3 p.m., on location at the GWCC
- SEC Now: The Championship Coaches, 7 p.m., on location at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS)
- SEC Now, 7:30 p.m., on location at MBS
Saturday, Dec. 4
- Thinking Out of Pocket, noon, on location at the GWCC
- Marty & McGee, 1 p.m., on location at the GWCC
- SEC Nation, 2 p.m., on location at the GWCC and MBS
- SEC Football Final, 7:30 p.m., on location at MBS
In addition to the usual lineup of hosts for these shows, fans tuning in can expect special guest appearances as well from country music star Chris Young, to comedian Jeff Foxworthy and Tony Barnhart.
The 2021 SEC championship game will kick off at 4 p.m. on Saturday. You can watch the game on CBS.
ESPN In 8 Million Fewer Homes Than In 2020
“Rumors of Disney looking to divest from ESPN have persisted.”
Some people in the media watch ESPN’s subscriber numbers like a hawk and report them without real context. In 2021, the people that cheer whenever there is news about ESPN having fewer subscribers than it used to will tell you that the network is in 8 million fewer homes at the end of the last fiscal year than it was in at the end of fiscal 2020. There is some context that is missing though.
Linear cable isn’t an a la cart service. So, if ESPN is in 8 million fewer homes at the end of 2021, then that means FOX News, Bravo, Nickelodeon and every other cable network is in 8 million fewer homes too. Also missing is the fact that while linear ESPN is losing subscribers, plenty of people are signing up for ESPN+ subscriptions.
At the end of fiscal 2021, ESPN Plus had more than 17 million subscribers. That is significant growth over fiscal 2020. ESPN Plus had 10.3 million subscribers at the end of the prior year.
ESPN’s traditional cable network and its sister channels net around $10 per subscriber for Disney each month through packages on cable, satellite and digital TV. At $6.99 per month, ESPN Plus is not a perfect replacement, but that is a direct payment to the company.
Rumors of Disney looking to divest from ESPN have persisted. A drop in linear cable distribution will do nothing to end that speculation. We may be in for an extended session of number watching though. If cable subscriptions keep dropping off at such a high rate, it could motivate Disney to make a move.
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