There are 53 million hockey fans in North America, according to the National Hockey League, but roughly 50 percent of those fans live somewhere other than the market in which their favorite team is based — and where the team’s home games are shown on local TV. Because of this displacement, the league launched GameCenter Live, the cornerstone of its newly redesigned NHL.com.
The service will live-stream more than 1,200 games this season, with almost 40 games being played each week (games are also archived for on-demand watching). Users can keep tabs on four games at once, or watch a single game with multiple camera angles. Additionally, users can choose between commentary from TV or radio announcers.
Of course, there are exceptions; not every game will be shown online. There are both geographic blackouts and blackouts if a game has an exclusive national TV contract. And you’ll have to cough up some cash if you want watch the action. It’ll cost the fan between $159 and $169 for a season pass, depending on when they make their purchase. In comparison, Major League Baseball charges $120 for a season.
The NHL wouldn’t provide specifics, but says that online video has been generating definite bumps in traffic for the site. According to the league, in September of 2007, NHL.com was getting 7.5 million uniques a month. Typically, site traffic dips at the end of the season in April as teams are eliminated before and during the playoffs.
But this past April, when the Stanley Cup playoffs started and the NHL launched an online video portal that showcased more editorial video content like The Hockey Show, the site did 12.4 million uniques, and in May it did 10 million, reversing historical trends. But the highest-trafficked day in NHL.com history came the day after the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Detroit Red Wings in a triple overtime match, as fans flooded the site to watch video highlights.
The league is hoping that by offering all of these games, they can turn normally myopic fans who only care about their team into more general hockey fans, who will check out other team games.