Once again, NBC blows it. First late night. Then snowboarding with swears, and of course hockey. What next?
National Bullshit Channel.
The head honchos over at NBC completely misread the entire Jay Leno scenario and guessed wrong on a gamble. They thought, incorrectly, they could shift Jay and his style to a completely different time slot doing a completely different style of show and people would just accept it.
Let’s start at the beginning with this whole hockey hack. Remember, one of the all time great Winter Olympic moments was a hockey moment, in 1980 when the USA team beat the Red Army team in order to advance to the medal round (later winning the Gold). Hockey is a cornerstone to the success of the Games and still a great source of national pride for some of the biggest competing nations.
The rumor is the network (in conjunction with the NHL who the network partners with on occasion for broadcast rights) pressured the Olympics to switch from the traditional international hockey rules to the NHL rules including the smaller, tighter NHL rink size, believing it would increase interest in the sport.
If this is indeed true, it could be conspiracy theory assumed to ensure the USA and Canadian teams that are overwhelmingly made up of North American professional players can play on familiar NHL ice with familiar NHL rules – as opposed to the other teams (apart from the Russians) who are predominantly from international play. It would handicap the international teams in making the transition to the less familiar rink sizes while protecting the NHL elite from possible injury on an ice surface less familiar to them. It would ensure the story line everyone wants by giving North America an edge and, in as such, potentially boost ratings and therefore awareness among casual sports fans.
But it’s done under some kind of rouse that thinks by going with the de facto North American standards for the game it’ll “feel” more familiar to viewers. So far, the typical NHL rink rules do not seem to be making for monumental ratings… then again, it’s not like these games are being broadcast at times or on channels making for the possibility the fans will be more into the harder hitting North American style.
Nothing But Curling
In the Leno Situation they hung in their with their decision way too long and watched irreparable damage begin to happen to both the Tonight Show now hosted by Conan O’Brian and the new Leno franchise. As the two struggled with ratings and the affiliates threatened to flee, the network remained steadfast it was doing the right thing. Only to find out it had done so much wrong it ended up losing more than face in the end when Conan left.
Again, the NBC is taking a huge gamble in its broadcast schedule for the games. It relegates too many of the games to tertiary networks that have zero normal sports viewership and at times that attempt to protect these channels normally well rated shows, hence providing us games on several hour delays at very impractical hours and with the possibility of still running into pre-empting and delayed starts.
Not just any games are at crazy times either, all the group two games including (and with a 1 AM broadcast time perhaps featuring) Russia in a very xenophobic fashion. Actually, the Russians carry among the top three in recognizable player names even outside hockey circles, among the top three of NHL level players (current and former) and are heavily favored to metal (actually, in many circles favored for the gold). So, what to do with those former Soviets? Relegate them and all the rest of the group 2 games to the NBC equivalent of a black hole. Sounds like another North American handicapping conspiracy, though, it’s probably not.
Then, there’s the situation the other day where Curling took precedent over hockey, Canadian hockey featuring one of the better groups of guys to hit the ice this side of an All-Star game including NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s poster boy and Stanley Cup winner Sidney Crosby. NBC apparently spent so much money in hyping this incredibly little known sport that only has relevance at the Games in order to bring it any ratings on it that when one of the matches ran long it ate into half the first period of the hockey game, which then bounced the hockey game between two different NBC networks (and not even seemlessly either, mind you, the cut over resulted in what seemed nearly 4 minutes of lost hockey). Listen, I know there is a perception the NHL games do not draw fans during the regular season (or, at times the post-season as well), but Olympic Hockey is different, it’s not about teams it’s about national pride, it’s not about the game as a game, it’s about it’s historical place in the Games… Again, lest we forget the miracle on ice!
Normally Bad Creations
NBC then butchered the whole PR element of Jay and Conan and the rest of their late night staff, taking a pie in the face from all the hosts on their network and every other psuedo comedian in the English speaking world.
Now they are taking that same pie in the face from the fans of hockey as boards light up on their “coverage” of the games including another spectacular choice of not airing USA/Canada on the main network in real time coming up, but what’s even worse is their web execution of the games. For the Beijing Summer Games, in part due to the time delay, there was incredible coverage of the games online, but for the Winter, in an effort to force as many eyes to the boob tube as possible even with its asinine schedule, online coverage is severely hampered. You HAVE to have a cable, satellite or telco TV provider AND you have to have some kind of digital account to log into in order to even use the majority of the site for starters. Let me tell you, my cable provider is lucky they have me as a customer and I am not able to ditch them, or I would, but there is no way I would give them digital access to me. I hate it enough they have my address and phone number to flood me with propaganda, I don’t need they emailing me too! Imagine if you had chosen to be a cable-free house, your internet would be useless and your ability to partake in this event would be even more hampered. Great job NBC by alienating eyeballs, the same eyeballs you NEED to lure to keep your advertising up and since your sales for broadcast continue to be rocky those all important integrations require a seemless web experience, one you are not providing, which is why Yahoo! gets all of my hits when regarding the games and not your site right now!
But, even beyond the poor overall execution, have the half-assed TV coverage itself, let but pro-schmuck Mike Milbury, who’s about as knowledgeable about a frozen half inch of rubber as Encino Man. Seriously, as a commentator I could get someone who’s never seen ice in their life or heard of the concept of competitive sports to call a better game than him and his profound ability to take his skills to a new level for the Games is downright astonishing (although, Roenick does a fantastic job at trying to check the obviously misunderstanding into the boards being he’s not a sportscaster). If NBC tried any harder to get less qualified people they would have stolen Joe Buck from Fox.
Needlessly Boring Commentary
So late nights are relegated back to the rickety racket Leno was beginning to lose the faith of network execs with, Conan come September will be let lose on some other network to terrorize the late night youth and in the mean time Letterman gets to bask in the glory not so much different than Ford as it watched Chrysler, than GM and now Toyota fall apart around it.
And so NBC pushed headlong into the forthcoming medal rounds, ones that could feature some combination of USA-Canada-Russia for some truly engaging and amazing story lines only to sit back on their hands and hope no one really notices they don’t care about broadcasting those games any more than they care about providing their viewers with anything more than any other entertainment experience. The NHL does a HUGE favor to the Olympics AND to the Olympic partner NBC to allow its season to grind to a hault and send it’s top players (many in the hunt for the Cup) to play for their national teams. Furthermore, NBC is the NHL’s partner as well. You would think all things being equal that NBC would at least TRY to provide some type of real value to the sport, show it some respect, maybe even play up to it’s heritage since this is even an anniversary year for the Miracle on Ice.
Nope, it’s more like Nationally Broadcasting Crap, just as it has been for quite some time. Just be careful, next thing you know they might replace the Olympics themselves with Mr. Leno