Are you among the television consumers who has held off on cutting the cord because doing so would cost you access to Carolina Hurricanes games? If so, wait no longer.
The NHL announced today that the Canes are among twelve NHL teams whose games will be available on Fox Sports GO beginning with the start of the 2016-17 season. This means that customers of “participating providers” (which means pretty much anyone who gets FS Carolinas as part of a package) will be able to stream Canes games regardless of their physical location, simply by logging into their provider account.
This deal was reported to be in the works by Sports Business Journal a couple of weeks ago, and it was wrapped up today. It’s been a deal that the NHL has been after for years, and now that it’s done the NHL becomes the third major sport, following the NBA and Major League Baseball, to offer in-market streaming.
Below, a quick FAQ of what this deal means for Canes fans.
- So, wait, how does this benefit cord cutters? Don’t you still need a subscription to something to stream Canes games? Well...there needs to be a subscription. Whether it’s yours is another matter. What this deal does is it allows for games to be streamed to any device via an active login with a participating provider. So, maybe you don’t have a subscription to a provider but you know someone who does who is willing to let you log in with their account. Voila - you now have streaming access to Canes games. (You likely know someone who does this with Netflix or WatchESPN already. This is the same thing.) This deal also allows for over-the-top providers like Sling and PlayStation Vue to stream Canes games - that’s a subscription, yes, but it doesn’t have to be a subscription to a cable or satellite company. That’s the distinction. (More on those below.)
- Why was this deal done with the NHL and not with the Canes directly? There are two components to local TV rights in the NHL. According to Kyle Hanlin, the Canes’ point person on TV rights deals, in-market streaming is actually contained within the distribution agreements for things like NHL Center Ice and GameCenter Live. The Canes sell their rights to the games, but the league itself handles things like blackout regions and broadcast territories. That’s why this deal took so long to come together; the NHL had to negotiate for twelve separate Fox territories, all of which had differing deals with their local teams.
- I live in a place that doesn’t get every Canes game. Does this allow me to access all 82 games, even when my local Fox Sports channel doesn’t carry the game? This is mostly an issue for Canes fans who have cable in western NC, upstate SC and north Georgia where games are split with another team (usually Nashville). Kyle tells me that all Canes games should be available via streaming to fans who live in an area that falls under the Center Ice/GCL blackout territory and are thus unable to watch when the Canes are not on that channel. So, if you live in (for example) Atlanta, and the Canes game is not on in favor of a Predators game and is also blacked out on CI/GCL, you should be able to watch on Fox Sports GO. Whether that actually comes to pass, as anyone who has ever had issues with the NHL’s blackout restrictions can tell you, is another story. Stay tuned; we should get some more clarity as the season approaches.
- How does (snicker) this affect (guffaw) the Canes’ (riotous laughter) nationally televised games? Games on networks other than FS Carolinas are not covered by this deal. However, most if not all of the games on NBC and NBCSN are already available to authenticated users on the NBC Sports Live Extra app, so on those rare occasions when the Canes make a token appearance on national television, you should be covered.
- What about Sling TV and other over-the-top providers? According to John Ourand of Sports Business Journal, who first reported this story a few weeks ago, over-the-top providers who have a regional sports distribution deal with Fox will be included in the streaming access of in-market games. Sling and Fox already have a deal in place, and other providers are working on it now (PlayStation Vue either has a deal in place or will by the start of the season). What’s unclear is whether the games will be accessible through the OTT providers’ app or through Fox Sports GO directly, but one of the two should work fine.
- If I’m out of town, does this mean I can watch a Canes game without needing a GCL subscription? As long as your package contains Fox Sports Carolinas, you will be able to stream Canes games no matter where you are through the Fox Sports GO app. The flip side, as has been the case for as long as GCL has been around, is that games will continue to be blacked out if you’re a GCL subscriber who is out of town. It’s based on your home address. Essentially, assuming a subscription, you will have streaming access to Canes games on either Fox Sports GO or GCL, but not both simultaneously.