15th June 03:51
The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly of NBC's 2012 Stanley Cup Coverage
The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly of NBC's Stanley Cup Coverage
With the Stanley Cup wrapping up and the hockey season finished for
another year, it's time to take a look at how NBC and their cable
affiliates did in covering the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Buoyed by a new
contract extension and televising each game of the postseason
nationally for the first time, it meant more eyes were going to be on
the coverage throughout the playoffs. In looking at the big picture,
NBC's playoff coverage is symbolic of their well-established,
collaborative relationship with the sport of hockey.
-With each passing year, Mike Emrick rightly convinces more of the
American population that he is the best play by play man currently
behind a microphone. Just take a look at the wide range of quotes and
emotions used in last night's telecast. The man paints pictures with
his words the way Rembrandt would with his brush or Shakespeare with
his quill pen.* His skill in broadcasting a hockey game is unmatched
across the sports spectrum and there's nothing like Doc calling an
overtime game in the playoffs. His excitement, his ability to back
out and let the game take center stage, and his way of setting the
scene are elite. Emrick's broadcast partner Eddie Olczyk has also
improved over the last few years and the pair make one of the top
broadcast duos in sports.
*An admitted exaggeration... but just a slight one.
-NBC's decision to air every game of the Stanley Cup Finals was past
due and brought something extra to both hardcore and casual hockey
fans alike. The NHL followed the largely successful March Madness
model of going to multiple networks to show games at the same time,
even using a non-sports network like CNBC along with NBC Sports
Network and NHL Network. During the first rounds of the playoffs,
this made one of the more enjoyable postseasons to watch even better.
On a single night you could follow multiple overtime games, switch
from one game to another without effort, and be put in charge of which
game you wanted to watch. The decision to air the games in this way
is very user-friendly, and it wouldn't surprise me to see this become
a wider trend across sports. Although there were a couple hiccups
with the coverage, it was a great success.
-The decision to show every game also made each postseason series seem
more important in the early rounds especially. This led to a wider
interest and higher ratings throughout the early rounds of the
playoffs. Of course, having teams like Chicago, Philadelphia,
Pittsburgh, Boston, Washington, and the Rangers involved certainly
helped the matter. Nevertheless, NBC Sports Network had the best
playoff ratings for a cable network since ESPN in 2002 averaging 1.03
million viewers, another (small) step forward for the young channel.
*There was good news in the ratings department... and there was bad.
When the big teams left, so did plenty of fans. There were some
outside factors involved in the ratings slide for the Stanley Cup
Final (going up against the NBA every night but last night for one),
but the NHL just isn't in a position nationally to do outstanding
ratings without established national brands. The decision to place
Stanley Cup Final games on NBCSN was criticized, but the practice has
been around for years and is understandable in trying to build the
cable network. Kings v Devils produced good hockey, but it was always
going to struggle in the ratings. While it's a disappointment for the
NHL, it shouldn't be treated as some kind of death blow. If we had
Rays v Reds in the World Series and Pacers v Blazers, you'd be reading
the same stories.
*Call this one an incomplete, but NBC needs to expand their on-air
hockey talent as the established home of the sport. They're very good
at the top with Emrick and Olczyk and have some solid veteran pros
like Dave Strader, Darren Pang, Brian Engblom, and Keith Jones.
However, some of the broadcasts still needed to be filled with local
announcers and Canadian feeds (to a varying degree of effectiveness).
For NBC to take the next step, they need to supplement their expanded
game coverage with more national announcers to fill those telecasts
and a couple more studio shows throughout the day. A hockey show ala
Golf Channel's Morning Drive, a roundtable featuring some of their
****ysts, or even a show that bounces around the CSN affiliates with
NHL teams can add even more to NBC's NHL coverage.
*Pierre McGuire doesn't receive the plaudits between the glass that
his NBC counterparts do upstairs. Just do a simple Twitter search
during a game and you'll see he's a level just below Tim McCarver in
terms of generating internet buzz. I've always been rather
indifferent to him as an ****yst, but his decision to shy away from a
heated exchange in the Eastern Conference Finals brought deserved
criticism. His position between the glass is a unique one, but he's
not there to protect coaches and teams, he's there to serve viewers,
****yze, and if the case arises, report. If McGuire isn't going to
report the most interesting and most meaningful elements from being
between the benches, and instead take some sort of honorable,
mysterious high ground, then what's the point of his presence there?
*Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick's fights have a different vibe than
the carnival barking often seen on more animated sets, but that
doesn't make it any less uncomfortable to watch. Unlike those staged
debates, Milbury and Roenick actually seem like they may throw fists
when engaging in one of their heated arguments. Milbury's ****ysis on
the whole is about as subtle as beating you over the head with a
shoe... then again, he has experience with that.
In all, NBC took their NHL postseason coverage to the max in 2012 and
delivered for viewers. While there are a few elements that can be
improved (like any network), NBC does hockey and they do it well. As
Greg Wyshynski noted at Puck Daddy a while ago, the NHL really doesn't
need ESPN anymore and can prosper in the long-term on NBC. The final
grade for NBC's NHL Playoffs coverage is a B+.
15th June 03:51
The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly of NBC's 2012 Stanley Cup Coverage
["Followup-To:" header set to rec.sport.hockey.]
If by "best", Yoder means "best at making people want to watch NASCAR
instead", then I have to agree. Otherwise, Emrick is truly an awful
play by play commentator.
Agreed. I wonder if he's getting better by being forced to be impartial
more often, instead of working a home-team broadcast.
This is also the model NBC used for their Olympic coverage, and I agree
that it was mostly successful. They were hurt, though, by NBCSN still
not being widely available on lower-tier satellite packages; NBC's
insistence on trying to force people to convert to Comcast by carrying
''premium'' channels on low tiers and forcing DirecTV and Dish to pay
more is going to backfire in the case of NBCSN.
It also caused problems for subscribers of NHL GameCenter (like me). I
was hoping to be able to watch much of the first two rounds by streaming
games from nhl.com, only to find that this new policy, which IIRC was
not announced before the season, completely cut me off from HD playoff
hockey, as I had dropped my satellite service specifically to subscribe
to NHL GCL. The interaction between NHL GCL, Center Ice, and NBC will
need to be better in future years.
There was also a surprising issue with NBC's own streaming. During the
regular season, and much of the playoffs, NBC streamed games in HD on
their own web site. But during the Finals, they refused to stream
games. In addition, all season they didn't stream any NBCSN games on
their site. I think they, and the NHL, need to be more consistent about
what will be streamed free, what will be streamed via subscription, and
what won't be streamed at all. They also need to tell people up front
so they can make an informed decision about whether to subscribe to a
service or not. And like it or not, over the next few years more and
more live content will be available via streaming, so the sooner they
move more in that direction the better.
It almost backfired very badly on NBC. In previous years, games one and
two were on Versus, and the remaining games on NBC. This year, they put
games three and four on NBCSN. Had the Kings won game four, that would
have meant that the Cup would have been awarded on a second-tier cable
network instead of national broadcast television.
I would love to see Strader become the top play by play man. Or, NBC
could look into trying to hire Sean McDonough, who was excellent for
them during the last Olympics.
Well, both Milbury and Roenick are complete idiots. It is telling that
those two hosers were the best guys NBC could sc**** up to do intermission ****ysis.
I'll give them a C+, if only because Emrick is still around and their
early round streaming policy. But there are a lot of areas where they
can improve without much work, so if the 2012-13 season isn't lost I'm
looking forward to it.
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