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Enhance the Fan Experience: Let them actually see the games

As you know if you were around for last week's lament about how the NHL tends keep the fans who actually paid to be at a live game in the dark when it comes time for controversial calls/video review, I'm doing themed posts three Fridays in a row to provide you a soapbox in return for some "consideration provided by" a sponsor noted above.

This week's episode of "What Really Grinds My Gears": When NHL fans who paid good money to watch games on a screen cannot, in fact, watch those games. Just in the last week among Islanders fans who visit this site, we've seen the following unjust situations that, frankly, stick it to fans:

  • 1) Fans in upstate New York beholden to MSG (not by choice) had the Islanders game bumped in favor of a different MSG team (Sabres, Devils, Rangers) or, worse, for high school football. Bucking up for the NHL's online product GameCenter does not fix this, generally because it is the game rights holder's decision whether a game is shown in their coverage area.
  • 2) Fans who elected to pay for GameCenter rather than be subject to the mercy of MSG+2 whose feeds can be, how shall we say, marked by the feeling they are broadcast from Mars? (Or North Korea. Take your pick.)
  • 3) Fans in Canada -- even all the way on the other side of the continent -- have their GameCenter feed of the Isles game blacked out because it was on TSN or CBC. This happens in the U.S., too: If you bought GameCenter but don't have the right cable package, when the rest of the nation watches the Islanders, you may be up a creek without a paddle -- or out of your crease without a clue, as it were.

In other words, all across the continent there are Islanders fans willing to pay to see their team -- in fact they have paid to see their team -- who can nonetheless not get what they feel they paid for.

Now, I know: They are getting what they paid for, if you read the fine print. But that fine print is for a bygone age that content providers and rights holders have simply not bothered to address. I know networks still cite Nielsens to set their ad rates, but it's time large establishments force their hand and say, "Look, you need to count legit Web viewers too because we're depriving paying customers."

Because if the NHL can determine whether to black out your GameCenter feed based on your location, they can also make sure you get the commercials that some lovely sponsor (such as, to pull a name completely at random with no strings attached, per chance Samsung) has paid your lovely local (or national) network to air. In this age there is no excuse except that, well, the fans upon whose loyalty the product is built still come last.

I have zero hope of this changing, of course, because the fans' interest is just that of some poor average sap whose entertainment dollar is only the lifeblood of the league and any broadcast partner. And the networks, they're the wealthy institutions whose money the league hopes can be a lifeblood.

Still, while I haven't done a scientific poll on the matter, I have a hunch actually getting to see the games you thought you paid for would indeed enhance your experience.