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Blackouts and Price Cripple the NHL’s Streaming Service

Not quite what fans had in mind.

The time all hockey fans have been waiting for is finally here: the beginning of the NHL season. But if you're looking to watch using the NHL's streaming service, NHL.TV, you might be a bit disappointed. The service isn't terrible, but it does have a few glaring issues that might keep it from being your streaming solution this season.

But first, let's start with the positives.

The NHL does a good job of offering multiple price points to make the service accessible to most everyone. This includes a yearly option to watch games throughout the league, an annual option for just a single team, and a month-to-month option.

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NHL.TV also offers a DVR function which comes in quite handy. Enjoy watching multiple teams? The service will let you watch up to four games at once with the split screen feature.

Another solid feature is the mobile compatibility, so you can stream games right on your phone. And, you have access to a huge on-demand library to watch more hockey games than you could ever imagine.

Cool features aside, there are a few things that keep NHL.TV from being a true cord cutting solution.

First, one of the biggest issues is the word any sports fan hates to hear: blackouts. The only games you can watch live on the service are out-of-market games. So if you need a solution for watching your local team, this isn't it.

You also need to look at the price. The different options cost $139.96 per year (to watch games from every team), $111.96 per year (to get access to one team of your choosing), or choose the first option but pay $24.99 on a monthly basis.

"I've been a user the last 2 seasons but am not subscribing this year," hockey fan Shaun Spellman told Motherboard. "When you pay $120 a year, you expect to see ALL of the games. The blackouts became a big issue—we'd be scrambling to find a way to watch the game last minute because we had no idea it would be blacked out."

At that price, you could practically pay for a complete cable TV replacement like Sling or PlayStation Vue, both of which offer solid solutions for watching hockey without cable. Here's a quick rundown of each:

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Sling TV: For only $25 per month, you can get more than 40 channels to live stream on Sling TV. This includes NBCSN, FOX regional sports networks, and in certain locations FOX's main network that will all be broadcasting hockey games during the year. It will be scattered, but still a solid option for the price. Plus, other channels you can watch include TBS, TNT, FS1, FS2, CNN, and, AMC.

PlayStation Vue: Sony has a streaming service on its own, PlayStation Vue. The starting cost is $29.99 per month and all the same channels are included as Sling TV, including FOX live in certain areas. Plus, PlayStation Vue also has ESPN and ESPN2 in its starting package as well, so you can get even more live sports without cable.

Overall, NHL.TV isn't inherently a bad streaming service but it certainly falls short when stacked up against services that can not only let you watch some hockey—but let you replace cable altogether.

Hopefully as the cable cutting trend continues to grow the NHL will continuously improve on its service and one day offer a reasonable one-stop streaming service for the real NHL fans. And perhaps it can take note from other sports and end the pesky blackouts. Until then, it seems like the NHL will remain behind the times in respect to cord cutting.

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