Back again with another edition of Thursday Thoughts.
Today I am going to focus heavily on one topic: Marketing!
I have had several ideas over the years as well as some other things to get off my chest. I must thank The Rod Pedersen Show for inspiring me to write this particular article, as I am passionate about the Western Hockey League. I cover it every day and want to help make it better for everyone. Rod generally highlights hockey on Tuesday and Thursday.
NHL All-star break
It’s bye-week in the National Hockey League, the annual All-Star Game means fewer teams are playing games and there are several days of no action outside the actual glitter game and skills competition.
This would have been an excellent time for the WHL (and CHL as a whole) to showcase games and get fans more interested in the product, if even for only a short amount of time. Many of the players in the CHL will move on to professional careers. Why not showcase the talent in the league?
Tonight there is only one game on the WHL schedule and the two teams involved are pretty good. Why not allow the game to be viewed online free of charge by everyone? Several potential NHL talents are on the rosters and they all could have had some excellent exposure with a bunch of hype attached. Instead, crickets.
League should make it free on WHL Live, try growing the fan base a little while the NHL is off. @TheWHL
— Guy Flaming (@TPS_Guy) January 23, 2020
The WHL has not had a broadcast television deal with a cable partner in Canada since the 2016-17 season ended. Shaw was no longer able to broadcast the WHL on Shaw programming everyone became accustomed to. Since then, the WHL has had games on Access 7 in Saskatchewan and Root Sports in the Western US, but those are regional broadcasts and are generally limited to showcasing teams in the local area.
The WHL also has some games broadcast on Sportsnet in Canada but they are few and far between. Of the 19 CHL games televised, just four come from the WHL region this season. That is nowhere near enough to provide exposure on a national level.
Since the end of the Shaw TV deal, WHL Commissioner Ron Robison has stated there were several deals in the works, but nothing has come to fruition. The WHL did have a 30-minute show on Shaw for a short time, as well as on YouTube, but those have not been produced recently.
In the QMJHL, some of the games are broadcast on TVA Sports as well as several games on Sportsnet. There is also QMJHL Live (online), which is available in the West (WHL Live). In the OHL, the league has deals with Rogers as well as Cogeco and Eastlink as well as OHL Live. They also have several QMJHL games available in their region.
Is it time for the WHL to scrap the idea of having games on a cable provider in the West? There doesn’t seem to be enough interest from the big cable providers.
How about a game-of-the-week on YouTube? One from the Western Conference and one from the Eastern Conference. While there is some potential cost, there are benefits to becoming leaders in the move to online technologies.
Why not produce a weekly, all-encompassing show – perhaps an hour in duration – throwing in the highlights, the low-lights and even interviewing players, coaches, general managers from around the league. By having these entities out there, the product will be more accessible for everyone and the stars of the league will continue to grow their brand.
I applaud the WHL for posting their nightly highlights, and occasionally it’s WHL Desk and the Throwback Thursday games. They can all be found on YouTube.
It feels to me like the WHL has taken a step back from marketing their game with the departure of Kirby Dach to the Chicago Blackhawks.
I know asking teenagers to do more is a tough ask, but I think the league needs to do more to have these players in the spotlight as much as possible.
Not everything needs sponsorship, to begin with; DUBNetwork is a great example of this. Might creating opportunities for the stars of the league to become the face of the league in different ways lead to sponsorships?
I welcome your thoughts and comments, please feel free to join the conversation @Paul_Figler on twitter with your ideas on how the WHL (and CHL) can improve the marketing of their product.