Sunday, March 05, 2006

NHL on NBC: Midterm Report Card

NHL on NBC is a failure. I don't think that NBC ever seriously wanted it to succeed. It was cheap filler sports duirng the downtime between NFL season and baseball season. They don't even give it a chance to succeed in that short time period. NHL on NBC appeared to have promise when it started, but it was such a small selection of NHL games it had no chance to gather a following. They presented four games on Saturdays on Jan 14th, 21st, 28th and Feb 4th. The games were well produced and showed respect to the game of hockey. When one game ended early, they went to other games to show their finish. That was very nice for hockey fans. Then the NHL on NBC show went on hiatus for the Olympics. During the Olympics, NBC made no attempt to showcase the program. Given the poor coverage the show was going to have, maybe that made sense for NBC. They only have two more broadcasts left this season. They will show early playoff games and end of season games on April 8th and 15th. That is it. The entire NHL on NBC run is 6 regular season games. They won't show one entire playoff series. They haven't shown enough hockey to build an audience. They haven't shown enough hockey to satisfy the existing hockey audience.

So what do they show instead of hockey on the Saturdays between February 4th and April 8th? This week, they broadcast a gynmastics competition and an arena football game. That is programming that NBC thinks is preferable to NHL hockey? So far NHL on NBC has been a failure. It was designed to be a failure. If you only show 6 regular season games with a more than two month break in the middle it is bound to fail. Good hockey broadcasting cannot change this.

At least it is good hockey broadcasting.

Let's face it, the NHL will take whatever national coverage it can get in the U.S. right now. This six-game deal (plus playoff games) was the best it could do (aside from the scary-bad OLN deal).

It's a revenue-sharing deal with NBC so you'd imagine they'd at least want to take some money out of the venture.
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