November 26, 2007 PRINT Bookmark and Share

CSTV Slashing Hockey Coverage

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

Something was noticeably absent from Saturday's sold-out, nationally-televised college hockey game at Madison Square Garden.

The national television crew.

CSTV, which began in 2003 with the prospects of a perfect marriage with college hockey, has drastically reduced its hockey package in the last couple of years. Last season, CSTV canceled some games here and there. This season, what had once been a once-a-week package (at least), has been slashed, in some cases in mid-stream.

In particular, the game Saturday was televised, but was done so using the in-house MSG video feed. The regular broadcasters, Matt McConnell and Dave Starman, were not at the event, but rather called the game off video monitors from CSTV's studios about a half-mile away from the Garden.

Clearly, budgetary concerns are at play. Advertising revenue has not been there for CSTV. And when CBS bought the network almost two years ago, it was unwilling to continue absorbing those losses. As a result, hockey has gone from the network's signature sport, to a somewhat lesser role.

CSTV executives had not returned phone calls seeking comment as of this writing.

Not using their own crew at MSG, CSTV saved tens of thousands of dollars. Other games have been cut outright. At least here, CSTV had the option of using MSG's in-house feed. But doing so, using announcers calling a game off a monitor from the studio, left CSTV open to criticism in the eyes of some.

"It's really a travesty," said one NHL scout, and former college hockey assistant coach, in attendance Saturday. "Look at how big a deal this is. CSTV's not here? That looks Mickey Mouse. They should've let someone else broadcast the game right."

But CSTV has found out what other's have found out — that college hockey, while hugely popular in large swaths of the country, cannot sustain a national broadcast.

CSTV was founded on the principle of giving a home to the second-tier sports that are fairly popular in some area, but that aren't quite popular enough for the major networks. Hockey was to be its signature sport.

That marriage is on shakier ground now, though for the time, there at least still is a package of games to be broadcast.

Other players, like ESPN-U and the Big Ten Network, and expanded packages from FOX affiliates, are now at play, too.

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