It was announced today that the NWHL will stream their games on Twitch, the streaming video platform, mainly for gaming. However, as times have changed, the platform has become a very wide array of everything on that platform.
First, the good part of it– it’s great exposure for the league. It’s going to be able to reach all people without many hurdles for people in other countries from watching the games. Second, it’s much more interactive than traditional television deals and will definitely allow fans to connect more to the people who are presenting the game. Third, all the games will be there. That’s something you want to have for a section of sport that goes underappreciated and underrecognized for the skill and talent the players bring to the sport. With Twitch teaming up with the NBA’s G-League and the NFL, it could mean good things– so long as they hire the right production people.
Now, the bad part– the most known players haven’t committed to playing in the league yet. The players are sitting out in the hopes the sanity prevails and the league can find a way to provide a living wage for the players. The formation of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association stated that 200 players strong will NOT play a professional game in North America until they get a living wage of being a professional hockey player. The games seems to be going on as planned for the five-team league, but many people may not know the names, which could deter them from watching. That, or the viewers will support those who are on strike to support them in making a living wage, thus hindering the exposure that this deal will give.
Also, I don’t know if this is the best platform for the game. There’s been an issue with porn being streamed on channels (and then becoming the highest viewed channels), harassment of streamers— mainly women– on the platform, as well as abuse of animals and spouses during streams that have been widely public. Not to mention streamers selling their bath water for their viewers.
It’s basically seems like the Wild West out there.
While this is a step in the right direction for women’s hockey in the mainstream, I don’t think it’s necessary now. I’ve plotted out a while ago a plan that should be done in order to make a professional women’s hockey league viable and none of it includes the NWHL as it is now. However, part of it is being done with the PWHPA’s Dream Gap tour. The big name players need to be out there, touring North America to get people more familiar with them as players and people. Do that for a year and keep women’s hockey out there, while you wait for the NWHL to cave and sell their assets to the NHL and let the NHL run the women’s league to start in 2020-21 with all their marketing, production, and footprint on the landscape.
When NHL teams supported NWHL or CWHL teams, it was more noticeable in the mainstream and it helped those teams a lot to have the synergy of the NHL clubs doing promotion for them. It only makes sense for the NHL to step up, buy the assets of the NWHL, get a living wage for the players so they can actually focus at their task at hand, and we’re all enjoying women’s hockey in a bigger form and on a bigger scale than what’s out there now.
A streaming TV deal is all well and good, especially for three-years and money being put into their pocket; but I doubt it’s good enough to lure the top names out of a strike and to create a living wage for players who have committed this season.