NHL on ABC
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|NHL on ABC|
NHL on ABC logo used from 1999 to 2004
|Presented by||John Saunders
|Theme music composer||Bob Christianson|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2 (1992–94 version)
5 (1999–2004 version)
|Location(s)||Various NHL stadiums (game telecasts)|
|Running time||180 minutes or until end of game|
|Production company(s)||ABC Sports
|Picture format||480i (SDTV),
|Related shows||ESPN National Hockey Night|
The NHL on ABC is the branding formerly used for broadcasts of National Hockey League (NHL) games televised on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) in the United States. The network first broadcast NHL games during the 1992–93 season under a time-buy agreement with ESPN; ABC resumed regular season game telecasts on February 6, 2000, as part of a joint contract with ESPN that also gave ABC the rights to select games from each round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
- 1 History
- 2 On-air staff
- 3 Nielsen ratings
- 4 National Hockey League coverage on ABC owned-and-operated television stations
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Before the 1992–93 NHL season
After being dropped by NBC after the 1974–75 season, the NHL did not maintain a national television contract in the United States. In response to this, the league put together a network of independent stations covering approximately 55% of the country.
Games typically aired on Monday nights (beginning at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time) or Saturday afternoons. The package was offered to local stations without a rights fee. Profits would instead be derived from the advertising, which was about evenly split between the network and the local station. The Monday night games were often billed as "The NHL Game of the Week". Viewers in New York City, Buffalo, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Los Angeles received the Game of the Week on a different station than their local team's games. Therefore, whenever a team had a "home" game, the NHL Network aired the home team's broadcast rather than their own.
Initially, the Monday night package was marketed to ABC affiliates; the idea being that ABC carried NFL football games on Monday nights in the fall and (starting in May 1976) Major League Baseball games on Monday nights in the spring and summer, stations would want the hockey telecasts to create a year-round Monday night sports block; however, very few ABC stations chose to pick up the package.
In 1979, ABC was contracted to televise Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Since the Finals ended in five games, the contract was void. Had there been a seventh game, then Bob Wilson would have called play-by-play alongside Jim McKay (as between-periods host), Bobby Clarke (as color commentator) and Frank Gifford (as reporter, who would have been in the winning team's dressing room to interview players and coaches as well as hand the phone to the winning team's coach that that would have allowed him to talk to both President Jimmy Carter and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau). The game would have started at 5:10 p.m. Eastern Time on a Saturday, replacing Wide World of Sports and local newscasts that typically followed it on ABC stations in the Eastern and Central Time Zones.
ABC Radio coverage (1989–1991)
In 1989, the NHL signed a two-year contract (lasting through the 1990–91 season) with ABC Radio for the broadcast rights to the All-Star Game and Stanley Cup Finals. ABC Radio named Don Chevrier and Phil Esposito as their main commentating crew.
Time-buy deal with ESPN (1992–1994)
In the 1992–93 and 1993–94 seasons, ABC televised six weekly regional telecasts on Sunday afternoons beginning in March (or the last three Sundays of the regular season). This marked the first time that regular season National Hockey League games were broadcast on American network television since 1974–75 (when NBC was the NHL's American broadcast television partner). ABC would then televise three weeks worth of playoff games (or the first three Sundays of the playoffs). The network did not televise the Stanley Cup Finals, which instead, were televised nationally by ESPN and by Prime Ticket in Los Angeles (1993) and MSG Network in New York (1994). Games televised on ABC were not subject to blackout.
These broadcasts (just as was the case with the 1999–2004 package) were essentially, time-buys by ESPN. In other words, ABC would sell three-hour blocks of airtime to ESPN, which in return, would produce, supply broadcasters and sell advertising. The main difference is that the graphics used for the telecasts were those used by ABC Sports, instead of the ones seen on ESPN National Hockey Night. In later years, the roles would be reversed as ESPN's graphical style would be used on the broadcasts with the exception of intermission reports. ABC even used ESPN's theme music for the 1992–1994 coverage. During ABC's next stint with the NHL, the network used its own theme music.
When the NHL television contract went up for negotiation in early 1994, Fox (which was in the process of launching its sports division after acquiring the rights to the National Football Conference of the NFL) and CBS (which was hoping to land a major sports contract to replace the NFL rights that they lost to Fox and Major League Baseball rights that they lost to ABC and NBC) competed heavily for the package. On September 9, 1994, the National Hockey League reached a five-year, US$155 million contract with Fox for the broadcast television rights to the league's games, beginning with the 1994–95 season, effectively ending ABC's time-buy deal with ESPN after just two seasons.
The NHL returns to ABC (1999–2004)
In August 1998, ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 signed a five-year television deal with the NHL, worth a total of approximately US$600 million (or $120 million per year). The $120 million per year that ABC and ESPN paid for rights dwarfed the $5.5 million that the NHL received from American national broadcasts in the 1991–92 season. As previously mentioned, as was the case with the 1992–1994 deal, ABC's subsequent NHL coverage was in reality, made up of time–buys from ESPN. This was noted in copyright beds at the conclusion of the telecasts, i.e. "The preceding program has been paid for by ESPN, Inc." ESPN then signed a similar television rights contract in 2002 so it could produce and broadcast National Basketball Association games on ABC.
This time around, ABC televised four to five weeks worth of regional games on Saturday afternoons beginning in January. ABC also televised the National Hockey League All-Star Game and Games 3–7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in prime time. In the league's previous broadcast television deal with Fox, the network split coverage of the Stanley Cup Finals with ESPN. Games 1, 5 and 7 were usually scheduled to be televised by Fox; Games 2, 3, 4 and 6 by ESPN. However, from 1995 to 1998, the Finals were all four-game sweeps; 1999 ended in six games. The consequence was that – except for 1995, when Fox did televise Game 4 – the decisive game was never on network television.
2003 was the only year that ABC broadcast both the NBA and the Stanley Cup Finals that involved teams from one city in the same year, as both the New Jersey Nets and the New Jersey Devils were in their respective league's finals. During ABC's broadcast of Game 3 between the San Antonio Spurs and the Nets in New Jersey on June 8, Brad Nessler, Tom Tolbert and Bill Walton said that ABC was in a unique situation getting ready for both that game and Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Devils and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim the following night, also at Continental Airlines Arena. Gary Thorne, Bill Clement and John Davidson mentioned this the following night, and thanked Nessler, Tolbert and Walton for promoting ABC's broadcast of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Following the 2003–04 season, ESPN was only willing to renew its contract for two additional years at $60 million per year. ABC refused to televise the Stanley Cup Finals in prime time, suggesting that the Finals games it would telecast be played on weekend afternoons (including a potential Game 7). Disney executives later conceded that they overpaid for the 1999–2004 deal, so the company's offer to renew the television rights was lower in 2004.
- John Saunders (1993–1994 and 1999–2004)
- John Davidson – analyst (1999–2002)
- Barry Melrose – analyst (2002–2004)
Stanley Cup Finals hosts
- Gary Thorne-Bill Clement-John Davidson
- Mike Emrick-Barry Melrose
- Steve Levy-Darren Pang
- Al Michaels-Jim Schoenfeld
- Dave Strader-Brian Engblom
- Brenda Brenon (1993–1994)
- Mark Jones (1993–1994)
- Tom Mees (1993–1994)
- Al Morganti (1993–1994)
- Bob Neumeier (1993–1994)
National Hockey League coverage on ABC owned-and-operated television stations
|Philadelphia Flyers||WPVI-TV 6||1983–1986|
|San Jose Sharks||KGO-TV 7||1991–1994|
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- "BRENON KNOWS HER HOCKEY ABC'S". The Buffalo News. April 17, 1994.
|NHL network broadcast partner
(with NBC) in the United States
1992 – 1994
|NHL network broadcast partner
in the United States
2000 – 2004