On the Topic Of Streaming Hockey Issues

If you didn’t follow my plight with HockeyTV on Friday night when trying to watch the Maryland Black Bears and New Jersey Titans; here’s a recap. The game was working fine for a bit, then buffering over time including skips in the game play and audio happened. Then the “Media couldn’t play because it was corrupt or your browser doesn’t support it” message happened. Then refreshing, checking other games, and submitting a ticket happened. At the end, I saw about two periods of the game, much of it dealing with buffering issues and HockeyTV seemingly was dumbfounded of the problem, saying it was probably an arena internet issue.

Here’s a slideshow.

Upon this, I’ve had other people telling me their stories of how HockeyTV wasn’t working for them all that well either, as well as talking about the cost of the service ($250 USD for the season) being too much for the lack of quality control being done during this issues. While the VP of Communications of the American Hockey League, Jason Chaimovitch saying they were in contact with the parent company and were addressing the problem. Whether it happened or not with the Black Bears, I don’t know. Though when I tuned into other games, they did seem stable, but at times with a buffer.

When I tried to watch the video-on-demand Saturday, the game played well through the first period; but then X gave it to me and the corrupt file message came up again.

I made sure to have the date and time at the bottom right there

Back in a former life, I was a producer for a streaming media company (RIP Broadcast Monsters) that put games on live and archived games when they were finished. One of the biggest things we had to deal with– outside of the “how do I listen” calls, was making sure the audio quality was solid so that people to listen and relisten to games. We would check and recheck to make sure the streams were running at top quality, which– for the early 2000s– was a task at times.

We wanted to make sure that fans of a team that couldn’t get to the game, but also family and friends of a player who is playing away from home could listen to the game and have good quality behind it. If we didn’t, we lost money because we were a smaller company and needed the support of these teams to pay bills and such.

And I can emphasize with the support team of HockeyTV, because I’ve been there once. It’s hard with people being upset their game isn’t working and you don’t have a solid answer– so you give the stock answers hoping that’s the resolution to the issue. Then you have to figure out an answer to the issue to suffice those around. It’s a thankless job.

Yet, when the problem has happened several times this season and you’ve been reassured two weeks ago that the issue was resolved at another venue…then it happens again– it’s not great for optics of a company. Sure, they have hundreds of games to deal with and pull in some bank doing this– but man, is it frustrating.

Now, I’m not just talking about me. It’s more about the family and friends of players who have moved away from their hometown to pursue a dream and all they want to do is watch them as they live it out. For them to go ahead and pay to see their child play and get nothing but tech headaches and sometimes a runaround about what’s wrong is frustrating at best.

Does this mean I hate HockeyTV?? Not really, I just feel they could do some things better and have a little more proactiveness and transparency when it comes to stuff like this, rather than brush it off and blame the users either at home or at the rink. Plus, since they’re the only option for NAHL and EHL games, it give me little choice if I want to follow the leagues and teams. They give stock answers or non-answers, which is frustrating, but with nowhere else to turn, you just sigh and deal with it, hoping it’ll get better next time you try. Like tonight’s game.

The NWHL, Twitch, and You

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.