Thursday, August 16, 2007

NHL TV Scheduling

You've got to hand it to the guys in the NHL Front Office, it's almost as if they never learn. We're constantly fed the same teams and matchups over and over again when it comes to national TV coverage. For instance, you can always count on seeing at least once on NBC a Flyers-Rangers, Rangers-Penguin Scum, Penguin Scum-Flyers, Flyers-Bruins, and Bruins-Rangers game and this year's schedule doesn't disappoint unless you're hankering for a Bruins-Flyers tilt. But it's ok because you get two Flyers-Penguin Scum and two Bruins-Rangers matchups instead.

At least they avoided shoving more Avalanche-Red Wings games at us. (That was saved for Versus)

Now a fair amount of this has to do with the NHL's current schedule format. There isn't a Caps-Kings game for somebody to pick up this year. But a quarter of the Flyers-Penguin Scum tilts will be on NBC. I can understand the "history" and "rivalry" but when was the last time the Penguin Scum and the Flyers were both in the playoffs? That isn't likely to happen again this year with the Flyers coming off their worst season in franchise history.

And speaking of the awful Flyers, they get a whopping 8 games on Versus in addition to their four games on NBC. The Colorado Avalanche, who also missed last year's playoffs, also gets 8 games on Versus but only one on NBC.

So there clearly isn't a "prior performance standard" when it comes to getting your game picked up by either Versus or NBC. The Caps get four games on Versus and three on NBC. Five of those seven combined games will be at the Phone Booth. This is better than the combined 3 appearances he had last year on NBC and Versus.

Now as I mentioned yesterday; NBC has the flex scheduling option which means they can pick up or drop games as they see fit up to 13 days in advance. This of course means that our 3 games on NBC are not set in stone and this is also an absolute nightmare for fans looking to attend these games and other games currently scheduled for later in the day. There's a total of 35 games that NBC could move into their coverage not including the games they could drop.

None of those 35 games on NBC Sundays involves the Caps; however if the Caps are dropped in favor of say Minnesota-St. Louis on February 10th, the Caps-Rangers game that day could very well end up not being televised at all if it isn't hastily moved to later in the day. NBC has an exclusive window for broadcasting and no other US network is allowed to televise an NHL game while NBC is.

Versus also has that right this year for their broadcasts on Tuesday nights early in the season and on Monday once the NFL regular season is over. This means that you won't see the Caps playing in Atlanta on November 6th unless you have a ticket to the game.

For a league that is kicking and screaming as loud as they can and desperately trying to get more attention for itself, its players, and its franchises; prohibiting the TV broadcast of ANY game is downright stupid. This is NOT how you go about building a following for yourself. Look at the Chicago Blackhawks if you don't believe me.

But it is what it is. The NHL has made their bed with this and now they must lie in it.

Otherwise, the Caps get their two token appearances per season on CBC's hockey night in Canada. The first one is in December when they visit Ottawa on the 29th and then at home on March 1st when the Maple Leafs drop into the Phone Booth and as also noted yesterday, we'll have five games on TSN.

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