New and Improved Golf Channel to Feature NHL Playoffs!

In one of the most absurd sports media moves since the Outdoor Life Network acquired the cable broadcast rights to the National (Indoor) Hockey League in 2005, two NHL playoff games will be broadcast on Golf Channel on April 18. A pair of Game 4’s – Lightning @ Devils and Ducks @ Sharks – will be broadcast on Golf Channel on the evening of Wednesday, April 18.

As ridiculous as it sounds, though, it’s probably not that bad of a move. Golf Channel is available in about 79 million households, compared to about 81 million households for NBCSN. Not a massive difference. Both networks trail well behind in household availability to the two other cable networks that will air some NHL playoff games, CNBC and US Network. CNBC is available in almost 94 million households and USA Network is available in 94.3 million households.

It sounds strange to say this but if you are an LA Kings fan living in Boston, you might be better off if the Kings game airs on USA Network instead of NBC’s main cable sports outlet, NBCSN. My grandmother has been getting USA Network since the first Bush administration in the early ’90s. It is doubtful that she gets NBCSN.

A lot of people like to poke fun at the NHL’s television situation, but that’s not the point of this blog. The move to put two games on Golf Channel is mildly amusing, but is likely more about attracting eyeballs to Golf Channel after the Masters rather than a comment on the NHL’s television ratings. It might appease more hockey fans if these games aired on the NHL Network instead of Golf Channel, but that would be far worse for the product. According to the most recent estimate I could find, the NHL Network was only available in about 37 million homes. Ask yourself how many MLB playoff games you’ve ever watched on MLB Network. I know my answer.  ZERO.

As a Bruins fan, I like seeing the B’s and Leafs on NBC in primetime Saturday night. I just worry about that game going to double overtime. If that game has to be finished on NBCSN to make way for a new episode of Saturday Night Live, then the NHL might have a real beef with its television partner.

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