Tuesday, May 22, 2007

TV Coverage Controversy

Let me start out by making perfectly clear that while I understand the decision of NBC to cut away from the Ottawa-Buffaslugs Game 5 OT in favor of the Preakness. I can't blame their business decision and I will also now at this time disclose that I directly own shares of General Electric stock, NBC's parent company.

Once again the Venerable Off Wing Opinion is doing the heavy lifting of chronicling the outrage of hockey fans and non-outrage of the non-hockey fans but let me interject here with a few things to ponder.

#1. This "horse race" is anything but the common ordinary horse race. It was the Preakness. Everybody knows (or should know) that the Preakness is the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. The Triple Crown are big races that bring in over 100K spectators to the tracks and millions to their TV sets. If the NHL and/or the Stanley Cup Playoffs had the kind of following that the Triple Crown does, we wouldn't have half the conversations about the NHL that we currently do. Two years ago my older sister got married on the day of the Preakness and about half of the wedding reception (including myself) went to the hotel bar to watch the race. I doubt that would have happened for a playoff hockey game unless the Caps were involved because once the race was over, just about everybody went back to the reception (except for our Great Aunt who went to her room to watch race and fell asleep).

#2. NHL Playoff overtime does not have any TV timeouts to run commercials. Under the current contract, NBC and the NHL split the costs of production and commercial ad sells are split between the two to defray the costs and any profits are split the same as well. However, because NBC cannot run commercials during OT, they can't make any extra $$$$$. So it isn't as if NBC cost the NHL ad $$$$$ because there wasn't any ad $$$$$ to make. NBC however could run commercials during their Preakness coverage and make $$$$$. As a business decision, it made perfect sense.

#3. What is forgotten is that NBC gave their affiliates the option of staying with the hockey game or going to the race coverage. From what I understand, the Loserville...er...Buffalo affiliate stayed with the game. Though according to Dump and Chase, the Bhawlmuher (where the Preakness was being run) NBC affiliate didn't even show the regulation periods of the game. Except for the folks in Bhawlmuher (who couldn't hold onto two Minor League hockey franchises) who saw none of the game, you could switch to Versus to watch the conclusion of the game. Now I will admit that NBC was woefully inadequate in making this clear to everybody. The least they could have done was put a crawl across the bottom of their Preakness coverage and I don't think it would have killed them to "send it back to New York" so that Bill Clement could talk through the highlight of the series ending goal. But I don't think NBC left people entirely high and dry because they did make the game available on a league partner network.

#4. I think hockey fans have to shoulder a fair amount of the blame here. We hear and see all the time from fans, bloggers, columnists, and others about how "boring" the game has become. We hear about how the game now lacks "passion," "emotion," and "intensity." There are complaints up and down the street about the constant parade to the penalty box in a vain attempt to end the clutching and grabbing and hooking and holding but there are also complaints up and down the street when the game gets bogged down by the clutching and grabbing and hooking and holding. Hockey fans are dumbfounded by the inability of the self-proclaimed "Hockeytown" to sellout playoff games. And yet at the same time we're screaming bloody murder because we get preempted for one of three high-profile horse races? While I plead guilty to bashing the NHL myself, us hockey fans need realize that it has a detrimental effect. Why should NBC (or any other broadcaster for that matter) think that we really care about watching the game when us diehard fans are constantly complaining about how boring and unwatchable it is and aren't bothering to show up in the arenas?

#5. It doesn't just happen to the NHL, a few weeks ago I complained about what happened to the MLS on ESPN2. For what it is worth, at least an NHL Playoff OT being preempted for a Triple Crown race makes news while an MLS game being held up for a Men's College Volleyball Semifinal didn't even register a ripple.

Finally let me close this out by once again saying that I think NBC could have stayed with the hockey game through at least the first OT before switching over. That period would have moved quicker because of the lack of TV timeouts and it start around 5 pm. The Preakness didn't get off till about 6:10 pm and the hockey game was long over by that point. However, hindsight is 20-20 and I can't blame NBC for the decision that they made. Don't forget Game 3 of the Buffaslugs-Rangers series which went into Double OT on a Sunday afternoon. NBC stayed with that game until its conclusion and scrubbed the Barbaro tribute in the process. That my friends, would have been a true outrage.

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