DirectTV Ruins the NHL Opener



I learned my lesson.

Oh, I certainly did. I learned my lesson about "satellite television" services. Don't EVER sign up for satellite delivered television. Don't buy their product, don't get their dish, do not let them on your property, do not sign up for their high speed Internet service, and do not expect anything other than misery, screaming, phony charges and horrible service.

Don't sign up for DirectTV or Dish Network.

DirectTV decided to drop the VS network, which is pretty much the only place you can see nationally-televised hockey right now, and they decided to ruin what was a wonderful opener:

On Sept. 1, DirecTV subscribers no longer had access to Versus. Hockey fans who have DirecTV likely didn't panic, figuring the two sides -- comprised of mature, professional adults -- would be able to work out their differences before the NHL season started.

One month later, the NHL season is indeed underway, and we are seemingly no closer to a resolution. In fact, if the talk from Versus is any indication, we might be a long way from DirecTV subscribers being able to watch NHL games on Versus.

While DirecTV has toned down their rhetoric, moving away from calling out Versus' programming, it seems that Versus has had enough of this situation.

Network president Jamie Davis was on a conference call with reporters to preview the NHL season Wednesday, and he offered up strong words about the negotiations with DirecTV.

He accused DirecTV of trying to "cloud the issue" regarding subscriber rate talks. He flatly denied that his network demanded a 20 percent hike in fees from DirecTV. Davis noted that September of 2009 was the "most-watched September in the history of our network," even though the network was not on DirecTV.

"In September of 2008 we were on DirecTV. In September of 2009, we have not been," Davis said.

Davis also claims that DirecTV wants a clause in their deal that allows them to move Versus to a sports-exclusive tier. This tier is called the Sports Pack on DirecTV, and it costs subscribers an additional $12 per month. It includes regional Fox Sports Net channels, as well as well-known networks like NESN, Altitude, and a couple regional Comcast sports networks, along with ESPNU and CBS College Sports. Davis says this move would "permanently" cost Versus some 6 million subscribers.

There have been reports that DirecTV has offered to air the NHL games, presumably taking Versus off the air again once game coverage is complete, while the two sides continue to negotiate.

"It is only due to the massive outcry from the Versus fans, and the NHL fans," Davis said, "that they realize that they made a mistake."

It's high time the country realizes that the NHL product is far superior to the NBA product, by a country mile. In the NBA, just watch a Knicks-Hawks or Nuggets-Warriors game and tell me you don't see players dogging it. Tell me you don't see players moving at half-speed in the early part of the season, hands on their thighs, feet out of position, watching someone take a shot that clanks off the rim.

In the NHL, you see players moving at lightning speeds, fighting for position and racing back on defense. The first ten minutes of the Sharks-Avalanche game on Thursday night saw three goals scored and a healthy amount of skillful play. It wasn't opening night excitement. They play like that every night for the entire season. And then, when the playoffs start, they take it up a notch, if you can believe it.

Ah, the NHL is back in action. Good times, good times.