Thursday, October 6, 2011

The NHL season starts tonight and hockey fans with iOS devices have their apps, Android presumably to come

The National Hockey League kicks off its season tonight with three games on tap. For owners of iOS devices, the NHL has released NHL GameCenter 2011-2012 just in the nick of time.

Unlike the baseball app from MLB, the NHL app is universal, and free. That means that people like me who own both an iPhone and an iPad don't have to make a choice which app to download. (MLB recently lowered the price of the 2011 app to $4.99 now that it is the postseason.)
The NHL app, like the MLB app, provides some features free of charge once the user has installed the app. Hockey fans get scores, schedules, something called 3D Ice Tracker, news, stats, etc.

For an in-app purchase of $19.99 the user can access in game video highlights, live game radio, and condensed game videos. For $159.99 the user then gets live game video of both home and away broadcasts. If the user choose to purchase the $19.99 package and gets hooked, they can then upgrade to the live TV package for $139.99.

These apps are especially useful for fans that have moved away from their hometowns.

There are some definite differences, though, between the NHL and MLB live game options. Major League Baseball has locked in their Internet streaming rights so that the only way a Giants fan, for instance, can listen to the KNBR broadcast of a game is to either be in the Bay Area, or else buy one of MLB's packages – KNBR is not allowed to stream the games over the Internet.

Local radio stations do not have to blackout their NHL radio broadcasts, however, so a tech savvy fan can simply find the radio station's stream, either online or in a radio app, and can listen to the hockey games without needing the NHL app (though it is certainly convenient to have all the games right there on one app).

Further, while MLB also is included in the Apple TV's offerings, so far the NHL has not swung a deal with Apple to be included on that device, though there are rumblings on the Internet that this might be coming soon. Presumably, a new Android app should be arriving, as well – after all, the season starts tonight.

MLB also kept their TV packages out of the App Store. The user paid to download the app or apps, then had to sign up for a package on the MLB website. The NHL chose to stay within the App Store and so will be splitting the revenue with Apple. However, if you signed up for the web version of NHL GameCenter you can download the app and sign into your account under settings to avoid having to pay again.

While I have downloaded the apps on my iOS devices I have not signed up for streaming services yet so I do not know whether the app will stream from your iOS device to an AppleTV (that would pretty much end any need for a separate AppleTV deal since I bet most AppleTV owners also own either an iPhone or iPad). The MLB app doesn't do AirPlay streaming of video (unlike the really nice PBS app), but then again MLB has their own spot on the AppleTV.

Of course, for us relocated Bay Area fans, the start of the NHL season means one more season of watching the Sharks win the Western Conference then fail in the playoffs. But maybe this year...