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NHL Tests Center Ice Broadband Package

The National Hockey League is close to skating its live games to broadband.

The league is currently testing distribution of its cable and satellite NHL Center Ice out-of-market game package on the Web, and it could make it available to any hockey fan with a high-speed-Internet connection before the end of the season, according to Keith Ritter, president of NHL Interactive Cyber Enterprises.

Ritter said the league is currently beta testing a broadband version of the $169 package, which offers around 40 out-of-market games per week. He added that the NHL wants to make sure its broadband package is secure in order to protect its broadcast partners: NBC, Versus and the regional sports networks.

“We’ve been testing it, but our primary concern is the security of the gating and the ability to make sure our broadcast partners are protected,” Ritter said. “So far, the test is going very well, and I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to offer it in the not-too-distant future.”

The NHL would join the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and ESPN in offering a companion broadband package to their respective television-based, live-game out-of-market services.

Like MLB.TV and ESPN’s out-of-market college-basketball and college-football packages, Ritter said the NHL would charge a fee for its broadband service, although a specific price has yet to be established.

Baseball -- which is close to securing a seven-year, exclusive DirecTV distribution deal for its MLB Extra Innings television out-of-market package -- charges $89 for that package’s broadband companion.

ESPN charges $109 for its GamePlan college-football broadband package. The network only offers a half-year broadband package for its Full Court college-hoops service, which retails for $75.

The NBA provides its NBA League Pass broadband service free-of-charge to subscribers to its $179 cable and satellite service.

Ritter said the league is making its package available on broadband to better serve its fans, who are heavy broadband users. He added that 80% of the traffic on is accessed via a broadband connection.

“Given the high level of technical literacy that hockey fans enjoy, we want to be in as many platforms as we can be,” he said. “I think that this is yet another place that [our fans] are and it’s another place we need to be.”

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.