Saturday, November 5, 2011

Time Warner to Kansas City Hockey Fans: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

For lack of another/better choice, many people in the area (including your humble writer) are subject to the random channel switching and rate hikes of Time Warner Cable.  Ugh.  It is still not cool what they did to the Travel Channel.  And how many people had problems with their cable boxes over the summer when TWC did a system "update" that crashed the older hardware?  Anyway, those problems aside, there is an issue that directly addresses sports fans in the city.  Most notably, hockey fans.
Time Warner's problems with other sports-specific networks are well documented, but I cannot find any reason why Kansas Citians who pay for the cable provider's digital package cannot watch the NHL Network.  The NHL Network is a premium channel for some reason, even though Time Warner shows NBA TV with no NBA team within hundreds of miles of their KC customers (also, there is no NBA at the moment, if you haven't noticed).  Each season, the NHL Network has done its best to broadcast multiple games featuring a decent balance of teams.  This gives locals a chance to watch more live hockey games, making the sport that much more visible in the area.  Without this access, the only option is to watch games on NBC and Versus (soon to be NBC Sports Network).  The game selection is not as diverse on NBC/Versus, but you probably love it if you are a fan of a team in the Northeast or Detroit.  The point being, not showing the NHL Network significantly reduces the visibility and exposure of the NHL to Kansas City.  One would think the NHL (or AEG) would have something to say about this if they cared about hockey in Kansas City (I know they don't, but let's pretend for a second that they should).

But, maybe that is being too nit-picky.  I mean, the channel is offered, but just at an additional cost.  Well, that still does not answer why the channel was available last season for a period of time.  Speaking of reduced access to channels, Time Warner has revoked our CBS College Sports Network privileges.  This is a network that carries many collegiate hockey tournament games, along with some early Frozen Four games.  Oh, not to mention regular season matches.  Tonight featured one between Yale and Cornell's hockey programs, but you had to pay if you wanted to watch it. 

Just two weeks ago I watched the Saginaw Valley State versus Ashland Division II football game on CBS College Sports.  Now, the channel is gone.  Well, not gone, but out of my price range because I refuse to pay additional fees for a channel that I had TWO WEEKS AGO AND FOR THE ENTIRE PAST YEAR!  Oh, and also the year before that.  Heaven forbid ESPNU carry any NCAA hockey games this season, because there goes another channel.

So why now?  Why is that channel gone as we enter the chill of late fall, when our only sports options in a few months will be hockey and college basketball?  It's disappointing, and frustrating.

The point of all of this is how can the city expect to gain interest in the game of hockey if it is not a visible part of the population's viewing options.  Does it make sense for a cable provider to carry the MLB Network and NBA Network, but force their customers to pay extra for the NHL?  There is no excuse for two of the major sports to have available networks, while the NHL's network costs extra.  I wholeheartedly agree with pucKChaser that the game needs to grow at a grassroots level here, but how is it possible to get people interested in a sport they can hardly watch?  Yes, NBC is doing a better job of showing more games against different teams this season than they have in the past, and no, TWC has not taken away Versus (yet), but hockey viewing options continue to be limited in this city.  Not only are community rinks closing, but televised hockey is at a premium.

But, KC hockey fans, let's not play the victim, because that's lame.  My suggestion would be to stream your favorite NHL team online through sites like Ilemi or First Row Sports.  You can feel kind of like a rebel while watching hockey at the same time.  It's a two-foot putt!
But, for you law abiders, watch NBC/Versus's hockey coverage.  The Blues will be on FSN more once the football season ends.  Watch them, and if you aren't a fan, cheer for their demise.  If you get ESPNU, watch NCAA hockey.  Hockey is hockey.  Go to a Mavs game.  Hell, go ice skating this winter.  Or learn to play hockey.  Or write a hockey blog.  Do something!

On NHL Network tonight:
Wish I could have watched that
On NBA TV tonight:
Well, it's better than this
After seeing that, let's hope this is for real!


  1. I thought MLB/NBA/NHL networks were all packaged together in a sports tier?

    My big complaint is that there is only one HD channel on the Center Ice package. I was going to buy it this year until I realized the vast majority of games would be in standard def, which just doesn't cut it for hockey anymore.

  2. Yes, all three of those channels are grouped within the greater sports tier with the ESPNs, FSN, Versus, etc., but only NBA TV and MLB TV are available without an added fee. NHL Network exists, but it's "Available for Purchase" (also, oddly enough, the Tennis Channel requires an added fee to watch as well. So, boo to that too, for all of you tennis fans).

    I totally agree; once you see hockey in all of its HD glory, it's hard to return to the archaic fuzziness of standard definition. Although, I have had to watch Kings games through streams over the years. Most of the time you can't see the puck, so I have gotten pretty good at assuming what is happening based on what the players are doing. It's one of my few talents.

    And don't get me started on the Center Ice and Gamecenter packages. Those carry a lot of weird rules and restrictions on what games get blacked out, etc. It gets annoying.

  3. I have heard Gary Bettman say several times on NHL radio that they dropped AT&T because AT&T would not offer the NHL network on a basic tier package. But it's not offered on Time Warner either on a basic package, you have to buy the special sports tier which is total crap. I sent the NHL Network an email about this and received no response.