NBC Still Misses The Point

You would think after signing a record-setting national TV rights deal with the NHL, that NBC might think about, you know, actually helping to grow the game.

Think again.

While the Mayor of Boston cites logistical problems as the reason that there will be no viewing party at TD Garden for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, you can’t help but think that the heavy hand of NBC Sports and Gary Bettman have once again have put the kibosh on viewing-party fun.

The question is why.

Of course the standard answer is that NBC and the NHL want every single TV rating point — or tenth of a point — that they can generate.  Fair enough.  (Although I’d like to know with how horrible the current NBC/NHL TV deal is how much it really costs anybody)

When you start doing the math on how many Nielsen-metered homes are in that giant Boston DMA, and then figure out how small a number of  people in that DMA are attending a viewing party, the statistical odds of a member of a Nielsen family being at that viewing party with their TV at home not tuned to the game are minute.  We’re talking pimple on a gnats ass minute.  What’s more, who is to say that the people at the arena/lawn party weren’t going to be watching the game with friends or at a bar anyway?  After all, you come to watch it on that screen for the community experience, not the quality of the image.

Which brings my to my point.  After watching two and a half years of playoff runs on the big screen at the Civic Arena, I can say with confidence that there were thousands of fans who were either new Penguin/hockey fans or casuals who had their loyalty to the team and game strengthened by that community experience.   The crowd was young and old, but mostly young.  They weren’t the typical attendees to games, they weren’t season ticket holders.  They were fans that loved hockey, and loved sharing the experience with other fans.  They had a blast.  And they came back.  In droves.  Their love for the game was enhanced by the community experience they had at those giant lawn parties.

Is that worth 1/10th of a rating point?  NBC?  Mr. Bettman?

The irony in all of this is that NBC cut away to a live shot of a large crowd in Vancouver watching the CBC feed of the game.  I almost choked when I saw it.  Twitter lit up from Pittsburgh fans calling them on it.  As if their credibility wasn’t already in the sewer, that shot threw a couple more inches of sludge on top of it.

CBC, by the way, is very supportive of the viewing parties and letting their signal be shown.  It’s no secret that they offered the Penguins free use of their signal when NBC denied the team the ability to show their feed during the games.  Of course, draconian threats from Bettman — and to be honest if what I heard was even remotely accurate draconian is a kind term — put an end to those plans.

Versus and FSN Pittsburgh were also very willing partners, and with the new ownership situation I’m curious to see what happens next season.  But in the past, both would send out signs and banners, posters and hats for the fans, and would put a camera operator down there and take shots from the lawn throughout the night.  They got it.  NBC?  Not so much.

NBC is wrong here, and the commissioner of the NHL is on their side.  Through discussions with high level league execs, it was unanimous that there was one guy that could fix this — Gary Bettman.  He chose not to.

Why?

Why not strengthen the ties that bind young fans to the game?  Why take such a negative PR hit for something that would have a negligible affect on TV ratings?  Why punish something that obviously works for hockey?

NBC fails in this situation because they miss the main point:  more ways for fans to come together and share their love the game of hockey is better for the overall health of the league.  Which means more potential viewers.

Obviously, I’m not a fan of NBC.  I feel that they’ve cheapened the game and haven’t treated it right.  From the revenue share deal coming out of the lockout that all but killed any hope of re-signing with ESPN, to the Senators/Sabers/Horse race fiasco, to the anti-fan stand on viewing parties, NBC has been a poor partner to the NHL.  But put the blame on the NHL for not stepping in to protect the game and the fans.

We probably won’t know what the real deal is in Boston.  We just know that it’s another missed opportunity.

Wonder how the next 10 years will be.

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