This blog is in responce to the Game 5 television dabacle on NBC. I am posting the E-Mail I sent to Seth Winter - NBC-Sports SVP of Sprots Programming just in case he decided not to return to work yesterday afternoon from a three martini lunch at Rainbow Room in Lower Manhatten. I did not want my outrage missed about NBC's programming decisions on Saturday. I think my sentiments are shared by Hockey Fans nationwide. For those of you reading in Canada be thankfull you have the CBC or TSN or even Rogers SportsNet to ensure that Hockey gets covered like a hang nail on Peyton Manning's big toe in the States. So if you continue to read this blog just crack open a cold Molson and relax for a few......
[E-Mail Transcript sent 5/21/07 at 1:00 pm edt]
You obviously don't care a hoot about your viewers. I am totaly baffled how NBC could cut away from the overtime period of a deciding game in a championship series, for a horse race?????? Granted the programming chosen was the second leg of the Triple Crown but most sports fans recognize the race in that series that matters to most television viewers is the one that happened a few weeks ago in Kentucky.... However the game you cut away from had real implications on the Stanley Cup and there is a large demographic that follows the NHL in the US. Yes we exist and our kids play in youth leagues and follow the game avidly. Oh and by the way the median income of that demographic is very high. Enough of alluding to the pure business rationale let me shift gears to the more irrational side of brain which will start this rant correctly, the one that believes that Wade hilips is a goon for the cheap shot he laid on Crosby in Game 3 in fron of the ref (no call), the one that wonders where did Gonchar go and the one that is in absolute awe of the Spezza, Heatly and Alfredson line.....
To this admitted rant lets recap the game in a sentence or two - the Sabres had been struggling to get back into a crazy game for most of second and into the third period when Maxine Afinogenov scored with time waining in the third period. I think you guys in the TV biz refer to this as a tease..... Transition to overtime, (the tease is vain attempt to get folks to tune in to see what happens next in case you missed that at Wharton) what happens in overtime (I had to listen to it on XM because I could not watch it....) The game is a desperate affair on both sides Buffalo does not want to be eliminated and Ottowa does not want to go back to the Canadian capital having to face the press and their fans facing a game seven; so their captain Daniel Alfredson after ten minutes hjve elapsed in overtime steals the puck and skates around the left face off circle and beats the Sabres "D" to score in overtime at 9:32 in that period. Thus squashing the dreams of the Sabre nation all around the world and creating a plot twist with intensity that only real life and competition can generate. This game has already been replayed on XM because it was that good and will go in sporting lore as one of the best playoff games ever played for the grit and the intensity (see also 1992 Game 7 NLCS Pitrates v. Braves for a classic playoff game reference with the same tension and drama involved).
I say all of this to say, you guys are constantly focused on ratings and building a product with ratings that are comparable to the NHL of the early '90s, well this game would have been a glorious opportunity to do that at the cost of 14 minutes and 32 seconds of Preakness analysis prior to the race - five minutes between periods and the 9:32 to play the overtime ....(by the way the pre-race is usually full of prompous people /celebrities predicting that some horse from South Jersey will win so I could use fifteen minutes less of that ) ...and then you could have cut to it with a patented "now joining our originally scheduled program in progress"
So again I am floored, it also baffles me because this game isn't a regular season game between Columbus and Phoenix but GAME 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals!!!! Again a refresher the Senators are leading the Setries 3 games to 1 against the President ' s Trophey winner from the regular season.... You remember that the outcome of this game could (and in fact did ) determine who was going to the Stanley Cup Finals to play either Anaheim or Detroit. You do remeber that trophey don't you - it featrured on a competitor's network during Prime-Time last week on one their best rated shows (ABC's "Boston Legal"
. Talk about a sharp stick to the eye - ouch!!!!
The only thing I can figure based off of your regular season choices for games that if the game did not occur in Philadelphia, Boston, New York or DC or included players like Crosby or Ovechkin NBC Sports could care less. I guess since the game included a team from Canada and Buffalo (not a large US television market) the brass in New York City could care less. Contrary to popular belief by many New Yorkers people in this country live west of the Hudson River and most of them couldn't find a race track with a map, GPS and a flashlight . Furhtermore most of those same folks could care less about horse racing (put a NASCAR logo maybe the views changes)primarily because horse racing is viewed as an elitist sport. Eyeballs who watch the NHL come from the regular Joe's who work at the Hussey Copper Works in Leetsdale , PA or ABC Coke Works in Birmingham, AL and they watch Football, Baseball , NASCAR and yes even hockey before horse racing. They drink Shaffer and Iron City Beer and cheer for the Penguins or Red Wings or any team that beat the ir favorite in the playoffs (refer back to the Game 5 Match-up)...... Wake Up NBC - this decision was a no-brainer and you guys blew it...... Must-See TV does not include me anymore - I would rather listen to Mike Lange on the radio or Paul Steigerwald on FSN anyway. Please allow Bill Clement to come over to Versus where he can really display his talent.
I will close with one question?
Would you have done the same thing if it were the AFC championship game say the Steelers vs Colts (two small market teams) or Pirates vs Reds in Game six of an NLCS? I think the answer is clear - NO.... however NBC Sports has demonstrated that it would give hockey viewers short shrift. Ever wonder why the FSN(s) and even Versus (who its living broadcasting snow-boarding, duck hunting and bull riding) is cleaning your clock in broadcasting the NHL. Remember that ESPN used the NHL as a springboard to start their network , are you seeing any parrallels here?????
One final thought Seth - Just because you are National Broadcasting Network, home of such stars like Jay Leno and Jerry Sienfeld does not give you the devine right of kings to see your viewers exclusively yours.....
One ticked off Professional Hockey fan.....
/s/ - Bulldog Bob