For the fourth time in under twenty years, a work stoppage is affecting pro hockey. Four times since 1993, the NHL has locked out its players or officials. As the most recent lockout enters its fifth week, after having seen yet another season’s opening day come and gone without the drop of a puck, we find that hockey is once again held hostage in a billion dollar game of chicken, a stare-down of unparalleled avarice over percentage points, with the sport’s devoted fans caught squarely in the middle.
It’s the fans who are locked out of hockey.
Millionaires are haggling with multi-millionaires and billionaires over a difference of about 5% of revenue. According to The Globe and Mail, assuming the same growth since the last lockout, the NHLPA (the players) have offered a 4.3% smaller cut of revenue from what they took home last year. The NHL however won’t accept the 4.3% pay-cut, instead they demand a nearly 10% pay-cut over the next five years.
The Fan Lockout is a fight over cash, over how to split that last 5% of revenue per year, and that’s incredibly frustrating for a fan. I’m all for fair shares, and it seemed to me that hockey was booming over the past few years when the players’ cut was a lot more than what they’ve offered and had rejected by the NHL, so I can’t help but think it’s the NHL that’s acting exceedingly greedy in this case. Ultimately though, I don’t care which group of millionaires gets that remaining 5%, I just want to watch hockey.
With nothing to gain, regardless of who wins the financial showdown, it’s the fans who are locked out of hockey. We fans are the cash cow being fought over, and yet we have no stake in, and exercise no power over, the bargaining.
That needs to end. We need to stand together and refuse to be treated with so little regard. If we want to see hockey again this year, we must put pressure on the NHL.
Fans canceling cable for the duration of the lockout will light a fire under the NHL.
As the sole source of NHL revenue, one would think that the fans could exert some power in the relationship. However, the NHL is free to abuse the relationship, because it knows that hockey fans are fans for life, that we will always be there to watch games and to buy tickets.
If we walked away from the sport, if we stopped watching, stopped buying tickets and jerseys, and cancelled our season ticket packages, the NHL would sit up and take notice. But we know that isn’t going to happen, and the NHL knows it too.
While boycotting hockey simply isn’t an option to true hockey fans, we can boycott television for the duration of the fan lockout. Hockey fans are so angered by the prospect of another lost season, that we are willing to try almost anything to save hockey, and cutting the cord will certainly have an effect. Fans canceling cable for the duration of the lockout will light a fire under the NHL. Speaking with our wallets is how we can be heard, it is how we can exert our power.
Big Television’s worst nightmare is the fear that customers will try life without TV for a while and realize that they prefer the choice and savings of web content.
As much power that the NHL holds over its fans, the broadcast companies, advertisers, and cable providers hold even more power over the NHL. As has been regularly demonstrated, the NHL will bend over backward to meet the demands of television. And yet, like a bizarre game of rock-paper-scissors, we fans hold power over television.
And don’t think the entire industry won’t take notice. With today’s plethora of content avenues, the Big Television stakeholders are scrambling to find ways to stay relevant and necessary in the face of Netflix, Hulu, MLB.tv, NFL Sunday Ticket, etc. The threat of lost revenue during a TV boycott under a fan lockout is serious enough, but Big Television’s worst nightmare is the fear that customers will try life without TV for a while and realize that they prefer the choice and savings of web content.
Mr. Bettman is going to start getting an awful lot of angry calls from advertisers, networks, and media giants.
If you’re like me, you probably don’t get very much value from your monthly cable subscription as it is. The only real reason that I still have cable is so that I can watch hockey. Of course to get the three or four HD channels required to watch my local team, I have to subscribe to dozens and dozens of channels that I never watch. The minimum monthly cost to watch my favourite NHL Team in HD is in the neighbourhood of $70 per month. This is a problem in its own right, one which most fans would be happy to avoid altogether, especially if it means helping to end the fan lockout.
So, I’ve put my money where my mouth is. I’ve cancelled my cable outright for the duration of the fan lockout. I’ve cancelled the sports channels, the lifestyle channels, the movie channels, everything. And surviving without cable is easier than I thought. With Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, MLB, NFL, and even NHL options all available on my AppleTV/Roku/etc, I haven’t missed cable at all. (And all of those US versions are easily accessible from Canada via helpful proxy or DNS services.)
You might be pleasantly surprised at how easy the TV boycott is, not to mention at how much more satisfying it is to pay for just the content that you choose. Try it for a while. Rather than being a sacrifice, you may find that you like it better. That’s the fear gripping Big Television, that’s the power you have over these giants, and that’s how you can exercise power over the NHL to get the deal done.
If even a small percentage of fans cancel their cable and cite the NHL fan lockout as the reason, Big Television will take notice in a hurry. When that happens, Mr. Bettman is going to start getting an awful lot of angry calls from advertisers, networks, and media giants.
End the NHL Fan Lockout by canceling your cable. Do it today. Spread the word.
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