For Shame, NHL on NBC
At this time last year, I talked about how the Stanley Cup Final brought about a bad image to the game of hockey. The diving, the flopping, the dirty stuff—it all cast a shadow upon the game. This year hasn't been too bad in terms of conduct, but that is nothing compared to the atrocious TV schedule that NBC rolled out for the final round.
This year's schedule is not too much different from years' past. The first four games of the Stanley Cup Final are divided in half to be shown on NBC, and the NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus). The NHL and NBC tried to create a fan-friendly viewing schedule, putting every game on an affiliated NBC network, which worked out to give visibility to NBC's new baby of the new year, NBCSN.
When all is said and done, though, the Stanley Cup Final's ratings are down. Way down. The first two games averaged a scosh under 3 million viewers on the national network. I can't imagine last night's game on the cable network fared much better.
What's more, I can't imagine the potential Cup clinching game on a cable network. I don't know who the genius was who scheduled it that way, or why the NBC execs couldn't let a few re-runs slide, but this is one of NBC's big events. This is their so-called "Championship Season."
Not everyone has cable, and not everyone knows what NBCSN is. Not everyone knew what Versus was either, nor could everyone access it. I was a victim of the DirecTV fiasco while studying at Millersville University. While the NHL was under contract with ABC/ESPN once upon a time, having the last game on ESPN wasn't a big deal. Everyone knows what ESPN is, and how they can watch it.
If the Los Angeles Kings win on Wednesday, it will be the perfect nightmare for the NHL. Potentially the most critical game in the season will be shown on a lesser cable network. I seriously question NBC's prerogatives and its priorities. Is the NHL not good enough for them to relegate a few games to this vastly unknown network? This is a 10 year, $2 billion agreement we're talking about here. Not chump change.
I suppose the reason that two of the first four games are allowed on a cable network is probably because both the league and the network believe the series will extend past four games, which is a solid argument. However, it doesn't look like that will be the case this year, and it's a valid concern to have in future years. Is it truly worth relegating championship games to cable?
Why make that exclusive? Why? ABC takes full responsibility for the NBA Finals. FOX takes the World Series from start to finish. The Super Bowl is always on a national network. This may be the first time in a blog that I write a sentence in all caps, but here goes.
WHY ARE YOU THE ONLY MAJOR SPORT THAT ALLOWS THIS TO HAPPEN?!
You, the NHL, are getting killed by your competitors. The reasoning behind that is obvious. The NBA's ratings were up over 30% in last year's final round, the best since 2000. The World Series (16.2 million) did well. The latest iteration of the Super Bowl drew 111.3 million viewers, which was the most watched TV show in history.
However, if the Kings take it in four, kiss your hope of good ratings good bye, and question why the heck you allowed NBC to screw you over. All of Canada will be able to see it happen on CBC. Just think about that for a second, and let it sit. Thanks, NBC. Thanks a lot.
This needs to change. I presume it's a contractual thing, but it needs to change. American viewers deserve to have the game shown in the same place, just as much as Canadian viewers, or viewers of other major sports.