Welcome to the blogosphere The NHL Is Back first and foremost, as this is the source where I derive this post from.
Phil P. over at the site cites Media Week as he comments about the four network broadcast companies in play with the NHL's cable broadcasts.
For me, Spike, ESPN and TNT all would be fine choices. ESPN is the safe bet, that will probably end up in mediocre ratings. Spike is riskier but could do great things for the NHL. And TNT is a solid choice, as long as the playoff situation is cleared up. One thing is for sure, it cannot go to Comcast. That would be a disaster.
First off, for the record, the players in play are Disney (ESPN), Viacom (Spike TV), Time Warner (TNT) and Comcast (OLN).... Just wanted to make that clear (and to correct Phil on who owns TNT).
Secondly, I have to voice my major objections to ESPN and the discrediting of Outdoor Living Network. ESPN and Disney have both mistreated the NHL over the years and as of right now, ESPN is grossly oversaturated with sports that they air. It might be the Outdoor Games, it might be the X Games, the NBA, the NFL, MLB, Poker, Westminster Kennel club, College Football, College Basketball, etc, etc, etc... The NHL is trying to win back the fans and having the fans lost in teh glut of other sports on ESPN does not aid the league whatsoever. It's like an girl going back to an abusive boyfriend just because she's lonely. Sure, he treats her mean, might beat her up verbally or physically... But it's better than being alone, right?
Spike TV -- a Viacom network -- offers probably the best bet for the league with the fact that not only are it's sister networks tied indirectly to it (Viacom owns MTV, Nickelodeon and plenty of other stations around the cable dial) and that might help promote the league being played on their network... It'd also give the league exposure to a younger demographic.
TNT -- I can't dis the idea or support it. TNT gives me the willies because of it's NBA ties and NASCAR ties. It routinely airs repeats and movies (much like Spike for that matter or NBC Universals USA Network) so there is space for original NHL broadcasts (games, news shows, etc)...
OLN is the Dark Horse of the four networks in play. It's national broadcast reach is not as broad as any of the other players and OLN's marquee program right now is the Tour De France each year. Comcast owns a great deal of regional cable providers though in major markets and can force OLN's way into the regions to solidify the deal...
This story is almost as interesting as the hot stove talk that is already heating up elsewhere in teh league.