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Small Markets Get no Love from Versus

<strong>The Lance Armstrong Television Network does not like small hockey markets.</strong>
The Lance Armstrong Television Network does not like small hockey markets.

Versus recently released their broadcast schedule for the coming season and of course the Carolina Hurricanes were nowhere to be found.   As we discussed last week, Carolina is one of the smallest markets in the NHL and the snub comes as no surprise.  But shouldn't Versus and the NHL get on the same page? 

Gary Bettman and the thinking tanks of the league have been working diligently to grow the sport in non-traditional, smaller markets.  They are putting a lot of money, (including millions in revenue sharing), into making their effort a success.  Yet their partner, Versus, has done very little if anything to help in the effort.

Not only are the Hurricanes void from the schedule, but other small markets like Atlanta (0), Florida (1), Phoenix (0), Nashville (1), and Tampa Bay (2) are ignored as well.  One of the largest markets, (but untraditional), is also snubbed in that the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks only have one broadcast between them.  How does this help to grow the game?

I asked John Forslund about this last year, and he said it was simply a numbers game.  The markets with the largest audiences get the most games. 

The funny thing is, they love doing games here. If they had their way, they would do more here. Raleigh is one of the places they like to come, from a professional standpoint. The crews that they get to work here are great. The atmosphere in the building is great. The weather is nice. They really like coming here. But the way they schedule their games is based strictly on a local ratings basis. For instance, it wouldn't matter if the Hurricanes were better than the Sabres, Buffalo does a huge number. I believe they have put Versus in more cable homes over the past two years than any other market. We need to get to the point where the local numbers justify them doing more games here.

But that's it. You know, Pittsburgh is on because they are Pittsburgh and Detroit is on because they are Detroit. Even a market like Colorado. They do a very good job locally for Versus, so they are going to get more games.

But if Versus and the NHL are truly partners, shouldn't they work together?  Shouldn't they have the same objectives and goals regarding growing the game?  How does showing a small grouping of teams multiple times and some teams zero times help to achieve any progress in this area?  

And if Versus is truly the "exclusive cable network of the NHL", shouldn't they be required to broadcast at least one game per each NHL franchise?  Come on NHL.  It's time to stop allowing "partners" to call all the shots and to put your foot down on some matters.  It makes you wonder sometimes who is running the league, Bettman or the head honchos at Versus and NBC?