Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hockey still a hard sell on a Sunday afternoon

NBC’s presentation of NHL hockey is getting some good reviews on content, as the American network takes a good run at providing a well rounded package of information about the game that few in the USA seem to understand or dare we say it, care about.

From the on line pre game show, to the numerous between period features, the network to its credit isn’t skimping on the presentation, even if the numbers don’t exactly dictate a full effort.

William Houston’s figures in Monday’s Globe and Mail, portray a television broadcast that is still struggling to find an audience, from his on line column comes this paragraph that explains the rock and a hard place, that the folks at 30 Rock’s sports department find themselves in this season.

“NBC's National Hockey League broadcast last Sunday was whacked by golf and basketball. NBC (Colorado-Dallas, New Jersey-Tampa Bay, Chicago-Columbus) earned only a 0.9 overnight rating (percentage of households tuned in), its lowest rating of the season. In the same time slot, the Los Angeles Lakers-Cleveland Cavaliers game on ABC earned a 3.1 rating, as did CBS's final-round coverage of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.”

Less than one percent is not the kind of numbers that you can rush out and sell to an advertising community, which of course is how the NHL hopes to make money off of the deal with NBC which saw no real cash change hands for broadcast rights or any such thing.

The NHL won’t be able to blame their television partner on the slim pickins’ thus far, NBC has done a fair amount of promotion and features the sport as part of it’s impressive on line presence.

From the Bellowing Moose (an unnamed observer who apparently doesn’t pull punches, if Moose actually throw punches, perhaps the Moose is the new torch carrier for NBC's former explainer Peter Puck). There is the Countdown to face off items and a home page on the massive NBC sports link which provides more than enough hockey information for both the casual and the passionate hockey fan.

It’s been a steady on air presentation so far, Brett Hull and Ray Ferraro add some fire to the topics of the day, Bill Clement does an admirable job of handling the circus and Pierre McGuire brings us more of that Inside information that we’ve come to trust from his TSN appearances.

For the most part the match ups have been fairly entertaining, though you might never know that the league has teams above the 49th parallel by watching the NBC show, rarely do you hear of, let alone see any of the Canadian teams during the broadcasts.

Which probably makes sense from an NBC point of view since they are trying to build American markets, though we wonder what kind of ratings their broadcasts get in Canada, we would hazard a guess that if the Canadian cable and satellite viewers were tabulated into the ratings figures, things might be tracking a little more positive for the network.

It was expected that it would take some time to build an audience after hockey’s sabbatical during the strike/lock out days. NBC had to wait for the league to come back to work before they could showcase their new product, the climb to decent numbers seems to be harder than first thought and is taking its time.

Hockey fans across North America can only hope that patience is the word at NBC headquarters, the on air product is top end, the games pretty good as well, now all that’s left to do is find somebody to sit down and watch a game or two!

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