Saturday, April 18, 2009

How could ESPN be any worse for the NHL than NBC? Tell me. Honestly.

Is there any doubt remaining that the NHL needs NBC like a shotgun blast to the head?

The latest in a murderer's row of terrible PR moves comes with NBC deciding to cockblock the Penguins' savvy and fan-friendly tradition of allowing people to watch games on a Big Screen outside of Mellon Arena. It was a bottom line-based decision, as the marginal loss in ratings would be too much for the soul-less suits at NBC to stomach.

But in such a marginal ratings grab, couldn't NBC impress advertisers by showing how much of an "event" their telecasts can be? At this point, it is pretty obvious that hockey games are a largely regional affair. Is a fraction of a decimal point really worth it for NBC, when they can show advertisers that they have an engaged audience?

Or is this just a case of "any press being good press?" Does the constant insulting of the NHL - from moving a heated OT playoff game off the network for a horse race preview show to showing no hint of consistency to slapping hockey fans in the face at every turn - not tell you everything you need to know about this "partnership?"

Hockey fans are the ground beneath the feet of out of touch executives. For every good move - putting the incomparable "Razor" Reaugh on national telecasts - there's a counter-move of imbecility.

People bash the idea of ESPN covering hockey, but the four-letter network would bring plenty more to the table than NBC. At this point, ESPN's in a ton of households and would do a much better job of raising awareness for their NHL games (as Puck Daddy and others have stated, the network is a self-promoting brand obsessed whore at this point). You have to be a hardcore hockey fan to be able to follow NBC's on-again off-again regular season schedule. Honestly, even I was surprised that the network was carrying the Washington-New York Rangers game this afternoon.

You get the feeling that Bucci cares more about hockey than everyone at NBC combined.

Yes, it's clear that hockey isn't a ratings force to be reckoned with, but it's also clear that the league is making baby steps to regain traction with American audiences. If the league isn't happy with just being a big fish in a little sea, then why not at least stick with a big unfeeling corporate entity that knows how to market the product?

I'd rather have the league give up its shitty, joke of a national TV partner in NBC for the corporate, sports culture dominating behemoth in ESPN. Even if it means going from network TV to cable.

Could ESPN be any worse than NBC?


Alexander Dubcek said...

As far as I can tell, the only argument NBC seems to have is that its coverage of the Pens-Flyers series could be a lead-in to whatever craptacular programming follows, and so there's a potential for a loss of carryover audience share if people are assembling outside the Igloo to watch instead of sitting on their couches at home, where some of them will stay tuned in for "local programming" (which is what's scheduled for the post-Game 3 slot according to TV Guide). It's a pretty pisspoor reason if you ask me.

My suspicion is that the vagaries of TV ratings and advertising rates are such that, even though NBC must recognize it'll have a captive audience of 10,000 or more watching outside the Igloo, there's no way to translate that into Nielsen points, and without Nielsen points, there's no way for NBC to turn to advertisers and say, "Look, if you advertise during Game 3, you'll reach this number of households according to Nielsen, plus this secondary audience watching in public."

Really, I think this is probably a reflection of the problems Nielsen and the networks have been facing for some time with the advent of DVR, online viewing, timeshifting and all the other technological advances that have eroded the number of people who watch TV live (as programs are aired), even if the total number of people watching (combining live audiences, recordings and online/downloads) is holding pretty steady and even growing in some cases.

Mainly it just sucks for Pens fans who want to watch the game in a festive atmosphere with other diehards.

But it's one more way that NHL on NBC blows.

jamestobrien said...

Well said, Alexander Dubcek. I didn't think about the (obviously weak) argument of "lead-ins" but I can see NBC trying to float that bullshit.

The thing is, people will assemble for games that skew the numbers. At places called "bars."

Ugh, don't get me started on this shit.

AmyB said...

Definitely an asshole move on NBC's part. What I don't get, is that, aren't Nielsen ratings based on how many people are watching? I remember getting surveys from them and it asked how many people were were in the house and shit. If the advertising is being seen, I don't see what the problem is.

Anaheim Calling said...

I wholeheartedly agree.

My guess on why Bettman is stuck with NBC is that he wants ABC involved if he signs an ESPN deal, like the deal they signed in 1999. Only ABC is in a different place now than they were in 1999. They have the NBA, and they don't want to gamble with the NHL ratings. And when Bettman asked them to renew, they offered him 1/10 of the contract they originally signed.

And Fox won't touch Bettman since he screwed them to sign with ABC. So, NBC, who's fourth and really has had no idea what to do with itself since it lost NBA on NBC, is the only network willing to give Bettman a network deal.

He's defended the deal a few times by saying he thinks it's important that hockey have national telecasts. And in his defense, he made a really smart move signing with Fox after the '94 lockout. But he never should have screwed Fox, and he never should've turned down ABC's offer.

Gray said...

Ratings are an educated guess derived form a sample group in each of the targeted age groups. They simply give networks an idea of how many TVs were tuned into their program at any given time. They do not and cannot count the actual number of eyes viewing said TV.

Unfortunately execs won't look at 10,000 butts in chairs in a park and say "wow, we had 10,000 folks + whatever the ratings say" it will instead be seen as a low rated game, thus making it harder for them to feel motivated to a) air games b) not pre-empt them and c)sell air time.

jamestobrien said...

Good points, everyone.