Thursday, January 04, 2007

The critics of Versus increase

I found this on the net last night and must admit that I had to do a double take when I read the author's ID at the end of the treatise against all that Versus has to offer our friends who live where hockey is alien to the television.

I thought oops, too many late nights/early mornings and I can't even remember when I send things out anymore.. But as it turns out Mr. Leporre is merely expressing the thoughts of what he calls the Hockey (space) Nation.

Just remember there is but one HockeyNation in blog land, the comments below do not represent the views of this post in the vast HockeyNation (though if we actually had access to the Versus broadcasts on a regular basis we suspect, judging by the comments of Mr. Leporre that we would be singing Amen at the end of the chorus).

From Sportsfan magazine the case against Versus...

How VERSUS Had Failed the NHL
BySteve Lepore
Posted: January 04, 2007 12:01AM

From: Hockey Nation
To whom it may concern,

I am an NHL fan. No, I am not a corporate fat-cat or a millionaire. I am just a regular guy who can afford to go to 10, at most 15 games a season. I someday hope to be a season ticket holder, but I watch hockey all the time and I spend most of my time either blogging about it or legitimately writing about it. I am a true hockey fan.

I have been a staunch defender of The NHL On VERSUS over its 15 months of existence, telling other hockey fans to give it a shot. We're going to build the next ESPN like we did with ESPN2 a decade ago, or like the NBA did with TNT. You get to hear Mike Emrick and John Davidson call the game of the week, instead of the same ol' Thorne and Clement. The post game shows will be all hockey, and so will the intermissions. We will be in a few million fewer homes at the start but hey, once they add another league, it will be in great shape and in as many homes as ESPN within a couple of years.

I, being the once-optimistic NHL fan that I was, and many others saw this as somebody taking interest in us. We welcomed you, while accepting your obvious defects as a network. Like the idea that you'd never covered a team sport before, much less a professional one. The 20 million fewer households, the inability to find you in the households you are in. But we accepted you because we felt you represented a change in hockey broadcasting.

To be fair, at the start, you did. You had the best people working the games, like Emrick and Davidson, Sam Rosen and Pierre McGuire. Bob Harwood was a revelation between the benches. Bill Clement had gone from dull-as-dirt analyst to dependable host. While most of us still couldn't find you, you were delivering us what we wanted: The games. Then we saw your coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and were overwhelmed at the time you gave us, to show those same 5 "Legends of Hockey" episodes again and again! Just pounding into the viewer's mind how much better the game used to be.

Then came summer, and a chance to bid on broadcast rights for the NFL and MLB playoffs, two sure things for ratings if there ever were one. If you had landed EITHER, you'd be in 90 million homes today. I will let you slide on the NFL package; that was their stupidity to take the games to their own network. However, the NFL Network was considered a more prominent bidder for the MLB games then you were! You failed in one of your primary goals: to get the programming that would let you be able to take on ESPN.

Fine, you've still got us. But this year, you've passed up every opportunity to impress us. The ancillary programming is gone. More and more, we are stuck with listening to the listless Joe Beninati and Darren Eliot. The studio show is dull as dirt. You're not giving us nearly enough All-Star game coverage. You couldn't pick up ONE World Junior Championship game. You refuse to try and get the rights to AHL or college hockey. You promised us Hockey Central, you gave us a hockey phone booth. And you're still only in 70 million households!

So please -- and this is the point in the letter where I turn my attention to you, NHL -- take your product away from VERSUS. Head to Spike TV, which is in 80 million homes and would get promotion from the UFC and CSI reruns, and be mashed in with a brand that exudes testosterone as much as Dion Phaneuf. Go to the USA Network, where corporate synergy would work with your broadcast partners at NBC. Go to FX, and get Denis Leary to host the intermission report. I'm not saying go back to ESPN, but if you have to, do that.

Because, you see, The NHL On Versus IS a failure. Of SportsChannelian proportions. It has knocked us out of the consciousness of the casual sporting mind as much as boxing has by going to pay-per-view for big fights.

Go somewhere else. I do not care, just leave VERSUS. As soon as possible.

Hockey Nation.

Steve Lepore is a columnist for SportsFan Magazine.

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