The NHL on NBC and NBC Sports Net needs broader appeal

The following tweet sets the standard for this blog post. It was posted during a telecast by NBC Sports Net and with thanks to me hearing the all-too-common complaints aimed at the network for their coverage of a National Hockey League game.

This wasn’t said as a Bolts fan looking for more rah-rah-rah on a national level toward the team, this was posted as a long-time NHL fan who has heard complaints aimed at NBC Sports (and Comcast in general, which has held the NHL broadcast contract in the United States since 2005) regarding their coverage that seems more market-driven than national-broadcast in quality.

Perhaps the proper group to criticize here isn’t NBC but the NHL. The Marketing exposure of the sport should be generalized with broad appeal in national telecasts for the sake of appeal and potentially growing the game by way of it. What the NHL has done is locked itself in place coverage for the sake of a payday and getting the product out there without a standard and generalized appeal.

See, what garnered others harping during the arch 20th broadcast of the Tampa Bay Lightning versus the Washington Capitals was that pregame coverage treated the competition almost as if the broadcast was a regional broadcast for the mid-Atlantic and regular Washington Capital viewing fans. Never mind that the top team in the league was the opponent, never mind the stories of that club and other-fare from the general NHL that should be spoken about before game time. The Capitals were the dominant topic and focus on coverage. That often is also the case when the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers or Chicago Blackhawks are one of the teams in-play on a broadcast night; region first (and potential ratings in those markets alone) and to hell with the wider viewership.

A national broadcast (be it any weeknight on NBC Sports Net, a weekend game on NBC or the Hockey Night in Canada for that matter) should be aimed toward a general audience and not partial toward a particular team (and thus market) of broadcast. The audience is cable television and video streaming viewers from coast to coast The NBC Sports team doesn’t work like that, though; partial is part of the repertoire as well as on-air personalities who garner a morose reaction from viewers, such as Mike Milbury and Pierre McGuire. I’ve done a write up about that in the past (twice actually). I won’t further it here.

By way of the exclusive broadcast right there’s no coverage competition, there’s no intent to draw more viewers, draw accolades, or grow the game. And with so many stories and so much news tied to so many teams in the (currently) 31 team league, it works against the sport.

In short, the league would do well to push for wider broadcast appeal on its US national broadcasts. It would be wise for the team at NBC Sports to make its NBC Sports Net and NHL on NBC broadcasts more appealing. That is the basic way to improve ratings.

Sadly, I don’t expect either. The broadcast status quo will stay as-is until the next contract year and the league and sport suffer by way of it.

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