For the first time in a long time, the New York Rangers will play a Tuesday night game that isn’t televised on Line TV in the Tri-state.
When the Rangers and Avalanche face off, the game will be available exclusively on ESPN+ and Hulu – which means it will be available exclusively on ESPN+ and Hulu. Not Air on MSG.
This is a separate issue from MSG’s ongoing transfer dispute with Xfinity, a heated corporate brawl that has left families of cable subscribers without Knicks and Rangers games for months and the number is on the rise.
After ending its 16-year partnership with NBC Sports, the NHL began its new seven-year agreement with TNT and Disney/ESPN this season with a total value of $625 million annually, up from the $200 million NBC was paying. Calls to the latest 75-game deal for game viewers can only be found on ESPN+ or Hulu, not on streaming or cable TV.
Tuesday marks the first of three games for Rangers this season in this package; February 1st against the Panthers and April 7th against the Penguins will also leave out folks who won’t or won’t be able to add the Disney premium service to their ever-growing media subscription package. This is also the case for the islanders’ five games this season.
ESPN+ costs $6.99 per month or $69.99 for a year, as is Hulu’s ad-supported base tier (for no ads, it’s $12.99 per month.) Both can be canceled at any time. Consumers can combine the two with Disney+ — which costs $7.99 a month as a freelancer — in a bundle for $13.99 a month.
ESPN+ subscribers can access every NHL game out of the market, while the Center Ice package does not include ESPN+ exclusives. An ESPN+ subscription also includes a range of MLB, college sports, and soccer games as well as original features such as the “30 vs. 30” library, Omaha Productions shows with Peyton and Eli Manning, and Tom Brady’s 10-part documentary, “Man in the Arena.”
However, there are plenty of linear cable subscribers who don’t want to switch between multiple remote controls and set-top boxes to watch TV – or may not even have the technological ability to do so – something that used to be much more of a passive activity.
There are others who simply don’t want to spend more money in an endlessly fragmented media landscape.
A Rangers fan: “My passion is Rangers and paying for the three games they share is stupid” Posted in Tweet To ESPN’s John Boxegross character. “I already paid for ESPN on my cable package, so why do they double back?”
“What BS — to watch The Rangers I pay for MSG, TNT, and the Center Ice package on DIRECTV and now the NHL wants me to pay a third. TIME WITH HULU-ESPN+??? I’m not a idiot — radio it is — it is,” William Sarnataro, a Rangers fan, tweeted in response to a story From the Rangers Forever Blueshirts blog on the subject.
This was a conversation brought up last week by former ESPN president John Skipper, who chaired the launch of ESPN+. Speaking at the macro on the Meadlowlark Media podcast with Dan Le Batard and former Marlins CEO David Samson, Skipper predicted a lot of the furor that many Rangers and Islanders fans will be feeling on nights this season.
“You’re going to have a very difficult period in the next five to 10 years where people won’t be able to find the game they want to watch as easily as they did in the 2000s,” Skipper said. “I’d risk guessing that people are going to be nostalgic for pay TV before long because it was such a great system and so much value because whatever you want to watch, I paid Spectrum or Comcast and every college football or baseball game was working.
“You can find them all with one remote and one service. You’re going to enter a confusing time where people don’t know where their game is because five of them will be on NBC broadcasts, three of them will be on ESPN+, two of them will be on Paramount+ and one of them will be on ACC. Every week. You’ll have to figure out where the hell they’re playing this week… It’s going to be more expensive, and it’s hard to find.”