The NHL 2017-18 season is almost upon us with teams about to enter their training camps in readiness for another exciting nine months of hockey.
As in previous years through this article, I’ll endeavour to provide the means and ways of watching the NHL in the UK.
I’ll finish with a final assessment at the foot of this piece in which I provide a balanced opinion and tell you how I’ll be watching the NHL this upcoming season.
Premier Sports (I shall refer to them as PS for remainder of article) have an NHL coverage deal which runs until 2021.
Now in year two of this new agreement, key highlights include:
– Coverage of 15 games a week during the regular NHL season.
– Exclusive live coverage of 11 games per week.
– Live coverage of all Stanley Cup Playoff games and the Stanley Cup Final series.
– Continued daily coverage of the 1 hour NHL highlights show.
– For the first time on Premier Sports, full intermission and pre and post game coverage will be included on a rolling basis with the aim that within the first 2 seasons 80% of live games shown will contain these segments.
The Question and Answer section of the NHL page will answer many queries some of you will have, so it’s listed below.
Q: What do I get?
A: Exclusive coverage of 11 live games per week. 15 in total. Live games are exclusive to Premier and include nearly all of the Playoffs and every game from the Stanley Cup Final. Games we select for live coverage are not available live through NHL.tv until 24 hours later.
– NHL “On the Fly” every day
Q: How to I make sure a game I have recorded live does not end before the game has finished?
A: This is a common problem with live sports and particularly NHL that can go to overtime. We give every live game 3 hours to air which is normally more than enough. We can’t change duration’s at the last minute to extend the slot, nor can we give every game a longer slot than is normally necessary as this would conflict with other live events on the channel. Although you can extend the length of every record by 10 minutes in the SKY settings menu we recommend you record the program that follows to avoid a record cutting out. The alternative is to record the 1st repeat of a game that is normally shown the next morning/afternoon. This will have been edited to fit the slot.
Q: Intermission coverage?
A: For the first time we have worked with the NHL to bring viewers the real North American viewer experience and within 2 years plan to bring 80% of live games with full pre/post and intermission coverage. There are a few technical hurdles to overcome still so we are not 100% sure we will have intermission coverage available from day 1 of the new season but it won’t be long. Within 2 years 19 of the 30 teams including all Canadian home games will have full coverage with other broadcasters being added on an incremental basis.
Other information relating to our coverage and that of NHL.tv Live online.
A: Included in the new 5 year contract for NHL broadcasts in the UK is an agreement that means NHL Gamecenter Live blackout restrictions apply to games selected for live broadcast by Premier Sports. Games that we may join in progress we allow GCL to show live.
This was agreed with the NHL based on the enhanced rights fee and the need for us to maximise and protect our investment in the sport.
Q: What games will be blocked live on NHL TV?
A: 12-15 games we select to broadcast live each week, Most of the playoff games from rounds 1 and 2, all of the playoff games from round 3, the Stanley Cup Final matches, the Winter Classic and other outdoor games and the All-Star matches.
Q: When can NHL TV show the games they have to block in the UK?
A: They can make games available after 24 hours after the live game.
So how can you access the channel? PS operates via Sky channel 428, Virgin channel 551 and via the Premier Player online.
Subscription costs are listed below and there is a connection charge of £5 .
The following link provides the terms and conditions, including payment and billing. http://www.premiersports.com/info/terms-and-conditions.html
In what’s essentially a sister channel of PS, there is now FreeSports (FS).
As the title suggests, it’s a free to view channel, which is available on the following platforms:
As per the FS website, “FreeSports is a new TV channel dedicated to bringing free sport back to 22 million UK homes through the Freeview, Sky, Freesat, TalkTalk and BT Platforms.
For too long top quality sport has been locked behind a pay wall, but now FreeSports aims to break this barrier and bring live sport back to the masses.
Our ever growing sports line up includes; Football – Rugby League – Tennis – Ice Hockey – MMA – Basketball – Cricket – Speedway – Nascar – Athletics – Wrestling… and lots more world class action brought to you in partnership with some of sports’ leading rights holders including; IMG, MP Silva, Lagardere, Pitch & Infront.
Televised sport is back where it belongs, Live and Free on FreeSports – because sport is better free!”
On the content page of the FS website https://www.freesports.tv/, the following ice hockey is listed:
National Hockey League – 3 games a week that can’t go live on Premier Sports
IIHF – 20 live games from Championships and 5 GB games from Div1A
Champions Hockey League – 20 live games
Swedish Hockey League – 2 live games a week
Spengler Cup live semi’s and final
FS are going to be showing some pre-season NHL hockey from China, as L.A Kings play Vancouver Canucks on September 23rd.
Now at the current time, the games broadcast on FS are blacked out on NHL TV. However there was a development posted on Twitter as regards that very point.
This is an interesting turn of events and I’m intrigued to know the reasoning behind this decision. With FS not currently available to everyone in the UK, I surmise that might be one of a few reasons this has come to being.
NHL TV is available with two payment options of which one is a single payment of $119.00 and the second is monthly payments of $19.99. (https://subscribe.nhl.com/international)
The latter option will work out much more expensive over the season so if you intend to watch for the entirely then a one-off payment is the way to go.
The final price in GBP has been around 105-110 (for one-off season payment) depending on the exchange rate the date you make the purchase and the credit/debit card used.
Select pre-season games are to be included in the package as they were last season.
The blackout situation does exist and will apply to eleven games a week that PS intend to show live. Games that are blacked out for NHL.tv viewers will be available 24 hours later. Any game shown on delay by PS should be available LIVE on NHL.tv.
Intermission coverage is hit and miss on NHL TV but it‘s certainly more readily available than on PS.
Previous subscribers should have received an email from the NHL, with subscriptions set to be automatically renewed on September 15, if subscription not cancelled by September 14.
Features of NHL TV:
NHL TV Media Player: HD quality streaming through a responsive, in-page layout. Includes features like multi-game viewing, alternative camera angles and enhanced live game data.
NHL TV App: Revolutionary 60fps (frames per second) live streaming video, available for select phones and tablets via the NHL® Official App. Current subscribers simply sign in with your existing credentials. New for 2016-2017: Enhanced team integration – videos, news, notifications and more, all in one place. Your team, your app.
NHL.TV™ Connected Devices: Revolutionary 60fps (frames per second) live streaming video, available for supported connected devices. Available on Apple TV, Roku, Sony PlayStation®3, Sony PlayStation®4, Xbox One and Google Chromecast. Milestone markers on supported connected devices let you watch the game in a whole new way. Supported devices include Apple TV, Roku, Sony PlayStation®3, Sony PlayStation®4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Google Chromecast.
Home and Away Broadcast
Extra Camera Angles
All the subscription and technical information can be found at the following link, along with a technical forum. https://subscribe.nhl.com/international
The coverage provided by PS has been blighted by so many issues during their tenure of broadcasting the NHL.
Poor feeds, including break-up of the picture, buffering or the stream going totally offline have been consistent problems for the channel, who have blamed everything and everyone but themselves for continual issues in that regard.
Ice Hockey is not the prime sport or best seller for PS and on many occasions, games have been shifted to make way for Nascar or Rugby, often at late notice.
Customer service is not PS forte to say the least. Many subscribers have complained about the poor telephone service when trying to rectify subscription issues or cancelling, while if you are suffering from other difficulties (technical or otherwise) with the channel, then good luck trying to rectify those with a company who seem to only respond to positive inquiries.
On the face of it, the cost is fair for eleven (or twelve) live games a week but it’s potluck which teams will be shown and of course no guarantees that the team you root for will be shown consistently, if at all. At the crux of the matter is that as a subscriber, you’re paying for the small amount of regular season games that will be blacked out and the majority of the Playoffs.
I’m a huge fan of the NHL.tv service but it’s not without it’s drawbacks.
The blackouts are bad enough during the regular season but they will be enforced for every single Stanley Cup playoff game as PS are due to show every match-up live.
We all know there are workarounds and I suspect many of you have used them in the past.
I’m not going to advocate the use of those and the league may crackdown on such offenders if they can prove accounts have been used in such a way.
Waiting 24 hours to watch a game that has been blacked out is an inconvenience I agree but the odds are stacked in your that your team won’t be affected (at least during the regular season).
The price of NHL.tv is outstanding, while the numerous features and watching past games at will, are a real luxury for fans this side of the ocean.
With all their flaws and continual issues, I cannot possibly advocate anyone subscribing to PS and I wish you the best if you decide to do so. If you have views on their service, please feel free to share them in the comments section for others to read.
I’ll be heading down the NHL.tv route and I’m looking forward to seeing the kind of service that FS provide.
It’s a far from ideal situation for UK NHL fans but these are the legal options we’re stuck with for the foreseeable future.