Sunday, May 20, 2007

NBC gives Sens' win the shaft

NBC pulled the plug on coverage of the overtime period between the Ottawa Senators-Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, denying viewers in most of the United States the conclusion the Eastern Conference final's Game 5.

NBC dropped the overtime period, which decided the series and sent the Senators to the Stanley Cup final, because it didn't want the hockey telecast running into its scheduled 90-minute coverage of the Preakness Stakes starting at 5 p.m. EDT.
An utter embarrassment, more so for NBC than the league. The only reason yesterday's game was broadcast in the afternoon was for American television interests, and when those interests are as obviously subsidiary to all others on the network, it really makes you question just why the game had been pushed into the afternoon (or morning, for those in the Pacific time zone) at all.

The good thing is that high-profile viewers like Daryl Reaugh were among those shafted by the move, and here's hoping NBC decides to drop its playoff coverage in the future due to the resultant bad press.

This kind of coverage isn't serving anyone. It shafts the players, the teams, viewers in both the U.S. and Canada, the league itself and even the owners, who gain little in revenue and a lot in negative media coverage from such a shoddy partnership.

Flush it down.



At 3:24 p.m., May 20, 2007, Anonymous Lyle Richardson said...

I've posted the following on Tom Benjamin's blog regarding this:

"Right now NBC is the only major network willing to broadcast their product due to the sweetheart deal they have with the NHL. That's why it was willing to extend the deal recently by another two years. They're not losing any money in the deal, they only have to provide minimal coverage, and they can influence both the NHL's regular season and post-season schedule to determine the best matchups.

Can you imagine NBC have that kind of sway over the NFL, NBA or MLB? They've got the NHL by the short and curlies and they know it, so they're obviously not gonna lose any sleep over any outrage from NHL hockey fans over switching unannounced to coverage of the Preakness.

And they certainly won't care how much Bettman stamps his little feet in protest. In fact, Bettman was probably outraged but didn't say a word to the good folks at NBC, because he needs them more than they need him."

" the end of the day Bettman knows the NHL needs to stay on a major network if it has any small chance at all of rebuilding its visibility in the American sports market. He won't simply throw up his hands and quit. He knows the subscription numbers for Versus are small. He knows no other major network wants his product except NBC, and he knows he won't get back on ESPN unless the league can generate more buzz than it does now.

Small ratings are better than none at all. Paying NBC to televise the games is better than no major television coverage at all.

That's part of the sad legacy of Bettman's tenure as Commissioner. It's come down to practically giving away televisions rights in hopes that somehow, someday, the league might regain some measure of its 1990s popularity."

At 3:49 p.m., May 20, 2007, Anonymous Logan said...

I like how you didn't mention that the OT was carried by Versus James.

It's ridiculous that NBC dropped the feed, but at least give someone an ounce of credit for making sure the feed got picked up by Versus.

The most telling quote from the original article:

"The problem is NBC is in about 110 million U.S. households while Versus is distributed to 72 million homes. A large number of viewers would have been shut out."

A large number of viewers? Not likely. There would have had to have been a large number of people watching on NBC in the first place, and that's doubtful.

At 4:06 p.m., May 20, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Bill Houston's article (and Reaugh's post) mentions the Versus business; it's not like I'm trying to hide that fact.

Give them credit for only cutting off some of the hockey audience? There shouldn't be any viewers left in the cold in a situation like this. It's a joke.

At 4:11 p.m., May 20, 2007, Blogger Nick said...

I watched NBC and then frantically flipped around looking for OT and didn't see it on Versus. Deer hunting or something was on. I must have missed something obvious, or maybe I wasn't thinking straight in my frantic state of mind. They could have put a crawl on the bottom of the screen or something.

At 4:18 p.m., May 20, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

A large number of viewers? Not likely. There would have had to have been a large number of people watching on NBC in the first place, and that's doubtful.

We don't have the ratings available to us just yet, but looking at the average audiences for the NHL on NBC, I think we can safely assume we're looking at an audience somewhere around 700,000 households.

Houston's numbers indicate close to 35 per cent less viewers have Versus than NBC, meaning it's safe to assume — even with the western New York region sticking with the game — that there were hundreds of thousands of viewers in Nick's position on Saturday afternoon.

At 7:03 p.m., May 20, 2007, Blogger d-lee said...

Part of the problem is that horeracing fans were incensed when NBC canceled a documentary about Barbaro in order to show the conclusion of game 5 in the ECSF.
NBC didn't want to piss off their equine friends again, so they put thousands of viewers without digital cable (or without access to Versus) in the dark.

I understand their commitment to airing the Preakness in its entirety, but there was an hour of analysis before the race started, for cryin' out loud. They could afford to miss that.

The main problem is that NBC decided to air two LIVE sporting events back-to-back, with no window for overtime. Since they dictated the puck drop time of this game, it marks a failure of their programming department.

Underlying it all, though, is the failure of Gary Bettman to secure a real television deal. The NFL and the NBA and MLB would never allow the coverage of their playoff games to be shoved around by some horses.

Fox bends over backwards for MLB, and it really is a shame that Bettman can't secure a deal with someone who will do the same for hockey.

In my mind, the bottom line is that the League should never have allowed NBC to schedule the game that way. Sure, I blame NBC for giving us the shaft, but Gary Bettman and the NHL allowed them to.

At 8:35 p.m., May 20, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a time when NBA playoffs were shown, tape-delayed of course, after the late-night news. Can't remember the exact era or the network, but it happened. Does anybody remember what pulled the NBA out of that toilet? Is there hope, therefore, for the NHL?

At 9:22 p.m., May 20, 2007, Anonymous claire said...

I wondered out loud this afternoon if NBC would stay with the Ducks/Wings game as it went into OT or if we'd get the replay of yesterday's horse race. NBC's decision to cut away at the end of regulation yesterday just reminded me why I don't watch much "major network" television these days.

At 9:31 p.m., May 20, 2007, Anonymous squawky said...

I was surprised that NBC switched directly to their Preakness coverage over a hour before post time (as scheduled) with overtime pending. The pre-race coverage is tedious -- you don't even see the horses for a good 30-45 minutes. And I'm a racing fan...

But I can almost see the thought process here -- hockey overtimes are unpredictable. They can last 3 minutes or 3 hours. I wonder if NBC chose to switch early rather than change coverage in a later intermission: they're obligated (at some point) to air events at the Preakness. If the game had gone 2 or 3 overtimes, NBC would have left the game anyway...better to have the game telecast somewhere than to have 2 minutes left unaired.

I can't imagine this happening with an NBA or MLB game -- but only because I can't imagine NBC agreeing to telecast a horse race on the same day. And as for the Barbaro documentary, well, NBC hyped the heck out of that thing -- bad idea to put it after any live sporting event.

At least NBC had a backup plan...was I the only one thinking "Heidi" as the final seconds of regulation ticked away?

At 10:07 p.m., May 20, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anybody remember what pulled the NBA out of that toilet?

Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan.

At 11:10 p.m., May 20, 2007, Blogger Steve said...

I just want to mention that this makes both NBC and NHL look stupid in my opinion.

NBC looks stupid because they can't anticipate that there might actually be an overtime and piss off hundreds of thousands of viewers. Seriously, without looking at the numbers it seems like at least 20% of games go to OT so that is just stupid planning on their point.

NHL looks stupid for letting NBC dictate the time of the game, when they probably knew (or should have known) that they had no intentions of giving it a fair play. It makes them look desperate, and also pisses off hundreds of thousands of Canadian viewers who are used to their Saturday night hockey.

What is it with Americans and afternoon sports anyways? Don't they have errands to run or gardens to take care of?

At 5:06 p.m., May 21, 2007, Blogger desdemona said...

I think that the responsibility for this lies directly on the shoulders of the League, as they were the ones who decided when to drop the puck.

I don't know anything about horse-racing, but from what I understand, there are three major events booked and planned up to a year in advance. The Stanley Cup playoff games are variables.

Knowing this, Bettman still chose to take the risk of a 3 hour afternoon game - no longer. It's his decision when to drop the puck, not the NBC's. My only question for the NBC is why was the alternate station for overtime Versus and not MSNBC?

And as enraged as I am for the Americans who were cut off, am I the only Canadian ticked off that this game was in the middle of the afternoon on a LONG WEEKEND? When many people in Canada are on their way up north or to the beach or in the garden or at the park with their family?

- desdemona

At 7:03 p.m., May 21, 2007, Blogger d-lee said...

Why is everyone crying that their afternoon plans were ruined because of the puck drop time? I thought Canadians were supposed to shape their plans around the hockey schedule.

Anyway (tongue in cheek), did it occur to anyone that the puck drop time on Saturday corresponded to 8:00pm Sweden time? Maybe there are other people in the world who are pissed off about having to watch games at 3:00 in the morning all the time. We throw them one bone, and everyone in Canada gets all bent out of shape and starts blaming Americans. Jeez.

At 8:38 a.m., May 22, 2007, Blogger Steve said...

Why is everyone crying that their afternoon plans were ruined because of the puck drop time? I thought Canadians were supposed to shape their plans around the hockey schedule.

We do, and we like to gripe about it. That's what makes us Canadian.

At 9:11 a.m., May 22, 2007, Anonymous stew said...

"did it occur to anyone that the puck drop time on Saturday corresponded to 8:00pm Sweden time?"

I live in the UK and the game began at 7.00pm for us. I LOVE the fact that there are early games on the weekend rather than having to stay up till midnight to see puck drop! I originally thought it was the NHL trying to reach out to europe. How naive was i!..

At 5:09 p.m., May 22, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I deeply miss CBC "Hockey Night in Canada" coverage since moving to the US. NBC coverage is missing something - its trying too hard to sell the game - enough already! I wish there was an easy way to pick up CBC coverage in the US.

At 10:40 p.m., May 23, 2007, Anonymous Rumour said...

It's the NBC that determines what games it airs and when they start - just about every news report I've read on this debacle indicates that. Doesn't let NHL off the hook, though, since it's the one so desparate for such a one-sided deal that earn it no rights money and hardly any of the exposure it craves.


At 10:52 p.m., May 23, 2007, Anonymous Rumour said...

Should clarify that while the NHL technically sets the playoffs schedule, it's so beholden to NBC that it basically goes along with the American broadcaster's programming preferences, Canadian viewers - and higher revenues - be damned.



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