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NCHC in process of tweaking TV deal

An often-heard complaint about the National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s first season was the television deal, which barred the league’s teams from appearing on national networks outside of CBS Sports.

Commissioner Josh Fenton is on his way to changing that.

Fenton has been in contact with officials at CBS Sports this summer and multiple sources tell the Herald that CBS appears willing to alter, in some way, the exclusivity clause in the network’s contract with the NCHC.

That could open up the door for teams like the University of North Dakota to put some home games back on Fox College Sports as it did in previous years. The original CBS contract barred that.

The games will still appear on Midco Sports Network locally and regionally and CBS will still serve as the league’s official network, broadcasting both regular-season games and its postseason tournament, the NCHC Frozen Faceoff.

CBS Sports showed 18 NCHC games last season, beginning with the league’s first game in October and ending with the championship game in March. The broadcasts, anchored by play-by-play man Ben Holden, color commentator Dave Starman and rinkside reporter Shireen Saski, received high praise from fans.

But the nights that CBS didn’t broadcast games became a point of contention for fans outside of the region, who were accustomed to seeing all North Dakota home games on DirecTV and Fox College Sports.

When asked about the TV situation for this upcoming season, Fenton told the Herald: “We’re still working on plans for next season.”

The TV situation was discussed with league members and CBS officials at the annual college hockey meetings in Florida in April.

The league also is exploring the possibility of a streaming package through the NCHC’s website, where fans could see league-wide games. But the league has to work through road blocks — including pre-existing streaming contracts by each individual school — to make that happen.

It could be another month before finalized TV plans are announced for the upcoming season.