AHL on NBC? Maybe

Chris Botta, of the New York Times, has had his hands in the business side of hockey for years. And through the most recent offseason he’s had a keen eye on what is taking place between the players, owners, and the entire National Hockey League. A reliable source, in most circumstances, and a great follow on twitter simply because he talks business, Botta mentioned something very interesting today. Especially interesting for those anxious to find a replacement follow this Fall if the NHL does indeed lockout its players.

What’s noteworthy about this statement isn’t that negotiations are occurring, we’d expect that given the NBC Sports commitment to hockey when the world chooses to ignore it. Rather the how and when of it all I find intriguing.

For starters, who backs an AHL on NBC Sports package? The big advertising players, whom have already been a little hesitant to buy into the marketing plan of NBC Sports, might be hesitant to back a minor league deal. And for how long? Does the AHL agree to something short term and flexible or merely demand a half season sked regardless of the length of the lockout? I can’t imagine a sponsor finding that appealing. Again, the AHL has only begun to investigate this opportunity. So in a week we might be hearing a completely different song and dance.

The other advertising component to a broadcast deal is what it can mean for local organizations. Imagine the opportunity for your dash ads or on-ice ads to be seen by the masses via a national audience on NBC Sports. That’s huge, even in the smallest of markets. A Devon Energy, Love’s Travel Store, or Chesapeake Energy might salivate knowing that they can get some attention throughout North America. But the question remains, will they have time to approach local advertisers if a deal is done? Probably not.

This will be worth watching over the next couple of days as the September 15th renewal deadline (now 11 days away) rapidly approaches. Here’s hoping the AHL seizes opportunities that are now present that maybe weren’t present in the earlier lockouts.