Some NHL fans could care less about the IIHF Men’s World Championships. I get that. The tournament falls right in the middle of the NHL playoffs and the games are airing at times when most people in North America are either asleep or at work. Some of us though really do want to watch and we do so for different reasons. To accommodate viewers all over the world and to increase exposure, the IIHF is broadcasting games directly on YouTube and in Canada TSN is broadcasting some games on TV and streaming other games online.
In the US, NBCUniversal (parent company of NBCSports) owns the broadcast rights for the tournament but are airing ONLY Team USA games and in a typical big-media-copyright-fascist bullshit move NBCUniversal blocked access to the IIHF YouTube videos and TSN streams as well.
The truth is, I don’t really care all that much about Team USA (yes, yes, I’m a bad American and I’m sure Lambert will be happy to berate me for it). I want to watch Teams Canada, Sweden, Czech Republic, etc. because the players that I know and love from the Blackhawks, my NHL team, are playing for those countries. If Patrick Kane had opted to play for Team USA I’d have more interest in watching those games too.
Here’s the email I sent to NBCSports today:
For the most part, the increased NBCSports coverage of hockey has been outstanding (Liam McHugh, for example, is one of my favorite people on TV right now). It's nice the IIHF Men's World Championship Team USA games are being televised, however, in protecting your broadcast 'rights' of the tournament you've done your viewers a tremendous disservice. The NHL is an international league with over half of the players coming from Canada alone, so NHL fans aren't just interested in Team USA. I want to watch my favorite players on Team Canada & Team Sweden for example.
I understand that these teams might not necessarily be ratings draws (although I bet Canada would be similar to USA, especially with all of the marquee players in the tournament this year) but the IIHF and TSN are both offering full tournament coverage online and US viewers are unable to access it because NBC is blocking it.
This is a *terrible* business practice. You are literally driving your viewers to illegal streaming sites or to use proxy servers to bypass geographic restrictions. Issues of access are what drive the ‘piracy problem’ that media corporations are always complaining about. Most people will happily give you their business but when you don’t offer them the option, they go to someone who will.
understand why you’d block the YouTube coverage in particular. Nobody watches hockey on their laptop or cell phone when the content is available on TV and nobody is subscribing to cable for just this tournament in the way they might for the NHL playoffs for example, so what viewers would you actually lose for Team USA games to YouTube? A handful at most? All you’ve done is screw over viewers who *want* to support you because you’ve done so much to expand hockey coverage, but who want to watch IIHF hockey as a whole, not just USA Hockey.
It may be too late to change your policy for this tournament but I sincerely hope that you change it for IIHF tournaments in the future because you are supposed to be growing the sport and building your brand loyalty. This policy does neither.
I’ve long argued that the primary contributing factor to the “piracy problem” (if you can even call it that, the claims made by the MPAA/RIAA about the extent of the ‘problem’ have been thoroughly debunked) is a lack of access, in large part due to regional restrictions. People are generally willing to pay for content if you offer it at a reasonable price. iTunes is perhaps the best example of this. (This access issue is illustrated beautifully in this comic from The Oatmeal about trying to watch the HBO series Game of Thrones.)
With the IIHF tournament, NBCUniversal has gone beyond protecting their interest as a broadcast rights holder by barring people in the US from watching games they have no intention of airing.
If you’d like to send NBCUniversal an email to complain about their draconian copyright policies you can do so here.