It is probably the marquis match-up of the night. Ottawa is in another of its ‘mini’ slumps and their fans are once again wondering if they have a team to win. The Leafs are on the edge of making or missing the playoffs and should be in desperate hockey mode. This is a game which is both highly important and which should be highly entertaining. This is one of those games that you could sell hockey with to generate new fans. Problem is, in Ottawa, the majority of people won’t get to watch it as it is pay per view only.
One could easily argue that the Senators are the least supported of any of the six Canadian teams. Though season ticket sales have improved the last couple seasons the Senators still trail other Canadian NHL teams by a significant margin. Off Wing Opinion had an interesting post the other day about StubHub (a ticket sales company) and the average price of a hockey ticket and the other 5 Canadian teams ranked 1-5 but Ottawa failed to even crack the top 10. In essense, Ottawa is still in the process of building a loyal, ticket buying, fan base.
NHL’s Top Ticket Powerhouses (data as of March 6)
Per Ticket Price
Team (US Dollars)
1. Toronto Maple Leafs $183
2. Edmonton Oilers $120
3. Vancouver Canucks $118
4. Calgary Flames $113
5. Montreal Canadiens $103
6. New Jersey Devils $ 95
7. Detroit Red Wings $ 93
8. Carolina Hurricanes $ 90
9. Minnesota Wild $ 90
10. New York Rangers $ 89
In the early 1990′s, the Chicaco Blackhawks ruled winter sports in Chicago and generally getting more coverage than the Chicago Bulls. In the mid 1990′s the Blackhawks made the decision to put all of their home games and some of their road games on pay per view only. Now hockey is almost considered a second rate sport in Chicago and their fan base has been significantly eroded away. On Tuesday a grand total of 9,118 fans showed up to watch the Blackhawks play the Los Angeles Kings. It is the opinion of many that PPV played a significant role in the demise of the Chicago Blackhawks and the erosion of its fan base. The lack of TV exposure cost them fans. Out of signt, out of mind.
So it seems to me to be a bad business decision by the Ottawa Senators to want to put one of its marquis games on PPV. Sure, it could generate a fair amount of revenue for this season, but it would seem to me to be a larger benefit if you used it to help generate a new, loyal, long term fan. Hiding the game on PPV and limiting exposure to the casual fan will not accomplish that.
One can certainly argue that if the game wasn’t going to be televised anyway (and there are several Senators games a season that do not get televised locally), why not put it on PPV. You know, I could accept that arguement but I cannot accept that one of Ottawa’s local braodcasters (A-Channel or Sportsnet) would not be interested in televising a marquis matchup like the Sens-Leafs. This was a cash-grab business decision.
Now I doubt that putting one Senators-Leafs game and a small number of other games on PPV will have serious long term effects, but if Senators ownership gets addicted to the new found cash they will certainly put more and more games on PPV and it is going to hurt them in the long run. I think the Vancouver Canucks have 17 or so on PPV this season and in my opinion that is getting seriously close to the threshold of doing long term harm but limiting access to the Canucks by the casual fan. Exposure and ease of access is the best marketing tool any team can utilize.
So, my message to fans is this: Support your teams by not buying their games on PPV.