Taking the NHL to task over Gamecenter

First I must preface this article by saying that I absolutely love NHL Gamecenter. For the past two seasons it has enabled me, despite blackouts, to watch way more hockey than I ever would have been able to otherwise. However, the NHL needs to be condemned for their marketing of Gamecenter during the playoffs.

First of all the price. A day pass costs $19.99. For a full season you pay that much for a month. Secondly, on NHL.com they have routinely advertised that you can watch “4-5 games.” However this is blatantly untrue. The most anyone living in the U.S. or Canada has been able to watch is 2-3 games a night. Let me get into that.

The NHL in order to protect its TV contracts blacks out all national telecasts a well as regional telecasts in the user’s area. I respect the NHL’s reasoning for doing this and understand it. That the NHL has blackouts isn’t the issue, the issue is the advertising on their website. In the picture above it clearly says “Watch Now.” However, this game is on NBC, TSN, and RDS, meaning no one in Canada or the U.S. will be able to watch the game. Now, the advertising also states “Blackout restrictions apply.” And, before anyone signs up they must check the following:

It goes without saying that anyone who checks a box without reading and spends money without making sure of what they are buying, is in idiot. However, this same person has seen not one, but 3 ads on the NHL.com page telling them they can watch games. They have seen a link beneath the game saying “watch now.” It is easy for a person to be mislead into thinking they are getting the game. Clearly the NHL has themselves covered legally. Although this ad also found on the page is a bit questionable.

“Subscribe to watch Sharks-Avs tonight at 10:00 ET” However a quick call to the Gamecenter help line (1-866-210-6349) informs the caller that Not only is this game blacked out in Canada/U.S. but the other two games today are as well. So all this advertising on NHL.com, and not one game that can be viewed by anyone in the U.S. or Canada.

As I said before, the legal warnings have the NHL covered legally, the issue here is customer service. A fan only wanting to watch the game, and choosing to go the legal routes to do it, is mislead into forking up 20 dollars only to get into Gamecenter and find out the game is blacked out. Does this person blame themselves? Do they think, darn I should have read the fine print? No, they immediately curse the NHL. This is akin to pulling into McDonald’s, seeing signage all the way to the drive-thru promising all the great food you can order, ordering the food, handing over your money, then getting to the final window and being told “Sorry, we are out of food, didn’t you read the fine print?” Would it be so hard for the NHL to post the blackouts for the user on the ordering page? Or is this about taking money and not caring about the customer? The NHL can ill afford to alienate more of their fans.

Of course the story doesn’t end there. The customer, now having found out that they can’t watch the game they just paid to see is now upset. Do they call customer service? Do they send a nasty letter to Gary Bettman? No. They now enter the Gamecenter chat and proceed to whine, cry, and annoy those people who have paid for the service all season. On any given playoff night, chat is interrupted no less than 20 times by someone asking “Why can’t I see the game?” Once informed of the reasons, they take their frustration out on the people in chat. It’s bad enough that on free preview days the NHL allows freeloaders into Gamecenter chat thus clogging it down and turning it into troll center and forcing the paying customers out for the night. Chat is not customer service, and the chatters are not paid to do customer service, and should not have to answer questions regarding game policies, especially the same question 20 times a night.

The NHL needs to fix the system. They need to make blackout warnings clear before a person makes their purchase. They need to make customer service numbers/e-mails available on the home page, so that people don’t gravitate toward chat to find answers. Maybe they need to include a live tech chat as one of the options so that people can ask their questions there. But most of all, they need to put their customers ahead of the almighty dollar. I for one will not be a customer next year if things are not changed.


One Response to “Taking the NHL to task over Gamecenter”

  1. We share the same views, the nhl, just like in its hockey operations with the rest of the league, alwasy finds a way to screw people, the person to blame is Gary Bettman, we as fans are always paying the price through higher tikcets costs and blackouts. Nice work here

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