I received an email yesterday announcing the launch of NHL GameCenter LIVE, the NHL’s new online streaming media service that will broadcast all of this season’s game live (hence the name). The service seems to be modeled after MLB.tv, with a subscription costing $19.95 per month (this is an initial promotional price), and potential blackout restrictions applying for games televised in your local market.
This is GREAT news for the NHL. To me, the number one problem holding the league back is a lack of public exposure. Too many fans, both casual and dedicated, either do not get Versus or are not in the habit of searching for it. Last year I thought that this type of service would be a great way to help fans get around the lack of TV exposure to watch the games conveniently on their computer. I have little doubt that the more “hardcore” fans will flock to this service, generating a nice new revenue stream for the league. I disagree slightly with the price point however. This seems too high for the more casual fans, limiting the initial adoption and limiting the league’s chance for additional public exposure. I would do two things right off the bat (or stick, in this case):
1. Create a discounted full-season option (right now, the full-season is $159, which is the same as the monthly price for the length of the season). Yes, you may lose a bit of revenue, but you will increase exposure which for the NHL simply needs to be a higher priority.
2. Create two monthly price points with differentiated features, similar to what MLB.tv did. The “premium” package can have better quality streams, the ability to aggregate multiple games on one screen, show additional camera angles, etc. The dedicated fans will select this full-featured option, and the casual fans will be more likely to sign up through the lower price-point option. Right now, I think they are going to miss out on a large percentage of the casual fans by only offering the full-featured package at the current price.
Even if they do not go with either of these suggestions, NHL GameCenter LIVE is still a big step forward for the league. Their attendance numbers have continuously increase, so the interest is definitely there from the fans. Now they need to capitalize on this growth and expand into the public light. I believe that this will be a very good year for the NHL.