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Will Comcast Nationally Broadcast The NHL In HD?  Print E-mail
Home Theater News What Is On In HD News
Written by Jerry Del Colliano   
Thursday, 21 July 2005

Tim Panaccio of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported today that there is the possibility that Comcast will broadcast the NHL on a national level for the upcoming 2005-2006 year. Comcast owns the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers and broadcasts Flyers, Sixers and Phllies games in HDTV in the Philadelphia market.

Flyers founder Ed Snider recently was quoted in the National Enquirer as saying that he wasn’t too worried about the lack of an NHL television contract with ESPN. ESPN opted to not renew its $70,000,000 deal to broadcast hockey, seemingly with the hopes of getting a lower price, just as the NHL owners had previously bludgeoned the NHLPA union into a deal. Now it looks like there is a new player in town, and this player is into HDTV in a big way.

On television, no sport gets more benefit from HDTV than hockey. The contrast of a gleaming white surface and a fast moving black puck is inherently hard for the new fan to watch on traditional TV. Increase the resolution to 1080i and the motion is easier to follow and the puck is easier to see. The more rectangular shape of the movie theater-like 16:9 aspect ratio screen is much more analogous to the rink than a virtually square 4:3 television screen.

Comcast getting the rights to broadcast the NHL is no slam dunk, but it does have some potential. One potentially thorny question, pointed out by Panaccio, is which national network will Comcast use? They own E!, Style and Outdoor Life, but none of those networks are HDTV-capable at this point on most digital cable or satellite systems. Comcast has the money and the power to buy an additional channel and make it the home of the NHL and possibly other sports. They have sports reporting in some Northeastern markets and could easily expand that to a national level to compete with Fox Sports and ESPN. Ed Snider, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, has the political power to sway the desperate NHL into doing a deal with his Comcast. The most difficult vote may come from the Dolans, who own both the New York Rangers and Cablevision. Considering the debacle Cablevision’s VOOM turned out to be, one might guess they are still licking their wounds from the losses associated with their failed HDTV network.

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