NBC Coverage Aesthetically Pleasing, Lacks Authoritative Presence

After a long night of guarding a stairwell at a Bon Jovi concert performed at the New Meadowlands Stadium (which would make a great, personality-free, neutral home for a Winter Classic, by the way) I stayed awake, fired the old DVR up and turned on Game #1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks on NBC.  It was embarrassingly sloppy at times, but a 6-5 score is a 6-5 score, and it makes for a fantastic entry point into the series.  The casual fan learned a lot of new names in Game #1 based on their statistics on the scoreboard, and they learned just as emphatically the superstars who aren’t performing.  It’s key in a series between two teams who haven’t been to the Final in a while that casual fans, or even fans who don’t see the teams too often, get to know personalities.

Anyway, here are some observations from the broadcast:

  • Pierre McGuire takes a ton of undeserved slagging from fans and critics alike for his overenthusiastic, hyperbolic nature.  That said… they really could’ve used someone like Dan Patrick to host things and give interviews during Games #1 and #2.  McGuire is at times extremely overly, and awkwardly friendly to players.  His interview with Dustin Byfuglien in the pre-game was almost as awkward as this.  Mike Emrick brings a ton of gravitas to a telecast like this, but it didn’t feel like he had the autonomy a James Brown or a Jim Nantz will often have.  Perhaps after Emrick hangs ‘em up from play-by-play he can take on that role and be the presence.  We’ll have to see if Dan Patrick improves things for a potential games 5-7.
  • NBC (and I presume, VERSUS) need to cut the length of the pre-game show. Both this year and last year, not starting until 8:20 PM has hurt the first half-hour ratings-wise, and has kept the viewer levels of the games down.  Cut out the extended commentary at ice level from Milbury and McGuire, and the banter between Emrick and Olczyk, and lets maybe attempt to start at 8:15 PM ET.  Not quite the 8:10 start of a regular season game, but early enough.  Honestly, nothing likely hurt NBC’s ratings more last night than Roy Halladay’s perfect game drawing eyeballs in Philadelphia.  I guarantee the Game #2 ratings will be much higher.
  • That all said, I did like the pre-game feature demonstration between McGuire and guest analyst Ryan Miller, who I enjoyed the low key commentary from for most of the game.  He was especially helpful given that the focus of the game was on how poorly the two starting goaltenders had played.  I would like to see if Miller can improve on television, it is a shame he’s got that whole millionaire hockey star thing going on for him.  Another thing Miller provides: a recognizable face, as NBC immediately connected him to his star-making Olympic performance.
  • Kudos to NBC also go for the organizers of the intermission features. I think going after the dynamic/relationship between Chris Pronger and Mike Richards was a ballsy move.  It’s certainly something you won’t hear about on VERSUS or CSN Philadelphia.  I hope NBC keeps lavishing attention on the controversy Pronger continues to jovially create during the Final, as Chris Pronger vs. the World always makes for terrific TV.
  • Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk were good, but I cannot stand – at times – how NBC just drowns out the commentary to an almost inaudible level.  Especially during the goal announcements from the public address announcer.  You’re going to show the scoring play on your score overlay graphic, and chances are Emrick will repeat it himself, there’s no reason to hear the initial announcement over play-by-play of what’s going on, particularly in a 6-5 game where no lead lasted more than 5 minutes until the third period.
  • All this in the bag, the game continues to look better than it has before, NBC provided ample camera angles to show the key plays (being able to determine that the game’s first goal had gone off Chicago d-man Nicklas Hjalmarsson’s face was awesome).  The 360-degree, “IceVision” camera is as understated an innovation in hockey broadcasting as the effect of HD and the “glow puck” were overstated.  I wish we could see that for just regular replays, it could really help the viewer on TV get that “in the arena” feeling.  I’m as big a proponent as you’ll find on that.
  • Finally, most awkward moment of the night: Any time they cut to McGuire standing next to CBC’s Glenn Healy in the cramped “inside the glass” position.  I can’t imagine how weird that must’ve been for both.
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About stevelepore
Steve Lepore is the Managing Editor of Puck the Media. His work has been featured in The Hockey News. Feel free to contact him at stevemlepore@gmail.com

11 Responses to NBC Coverage Aesthetically Pleasing, Lacks Authoritative Presence

  1. leafsfan1967 says:

    There’s no doubt that McQuire knows his hockey but the NBC guys talk way too much about things that don’t really matter during the game. This is where the CBC broadcasts have the right balance. One of the really nice things about the CBC broadasts is that from the moment the teams come onto the ice until after the National anthem their talking heads, DON’T talk! This really gives a sense of what is going on in the arena.

  2. Buddy Oakes says:

    Milller’s second period commentary which was right on target and Pierre following it with “I’d take Miller over Milbury” was a highlight of the broadcast.

  3. Josh says:

    Re: the 8:20 start time.

    It’s especially irritating because they did that during the conference finals, too. The NBA meanwhile cuts right to the chase. Sometimes TSN picks up TNT’s pre-game show, and sometimes not, but when they don’t, the game starts straight away. If the viewing guide says it’s a 9pm start, they’ll be tipping off at 9:03. That contrast looks bad on the NHL.

  4. Josh says:

    The 8:20 start really is a problem. I don’t know what the NBA will be doing during the finals, but during its conference finals (and the NHL also had the 20-minutes-late thing happening during the ECF and WCF), if the NBA’s schedule said 9pm, dagnabbit they were tipping at 9:03pm. If you want a pre-game show, have a half-hour pre-game show. And if CBC wants to show the anthems every single night, they can show the anthems as part of their pre-game show.

    • Keith says:

      I’d be surprised if the NBA started later than 9:05 (or 8:05 on the Sunday games). Their pregame show does the job to set the scene, while being a separate show and not impacted the rating for the game. The NHL needs to do this, even if they start games at 8:30.

      • nosferatu says:

        Yeah, a stand-alone pregame show would do the trick. Versus will have such a thing, so it’ll be interesting to see when they start the games later this week.

  5. e says:

    Nbc really needs a studio host to help set the scene. They are making a big mistake by not having Bob Costas or Bill Patrick host the coverage. Regarding the starting time, the games should start at 8:10. Also where is Jere
    my Roenick? I thought he was going to be part of Nbcs coverage.

  6. Colton says:

    Roenick will be part of the coverage, I’m guessing that he’s busy this weekend which is why they got Miller in there instead.

  7. Sean says:

    I think starting times and pregames are the most overrated aspect of a sporting event and its rating. Who cares? Will starting the game at 8:10 get 1 million more people to watch? No, of course not.

  8. Josh says:

    nosferatu :Yeah, a stand-alone pregame show would do the trick. Versus will have such a thing, so it’ll be interesting to see when they start the games later this week.

    Although, if I recall correctly, CBC is only doing its pregame show for the weekend games (which are not Versus games), and they like to show the anthems and players skating onto the ice, etc. So, they’re probably going to want all that stuff built into their game block which starts at 8pm, probably pushing start time to at least 8:15 or so.

  9. canadiansportsfan says:

    IIRC the start times for the Versus games have been 8:10 in the past. CBC comes right on with a quick hit from Don Cherry, the on ice pregame stuff and the anthems and cuts the piece with MacLean, Hrudey and Healy that they did in game 2.

    I am also among those who would rather a 8:15 start for the NBC games though, they don’t even get to do a postgame show the way it is now. Anyone else notice that the intermissions seem a bit longer than normal too?

    Even as a Canadian, I actually prefer NBC’s coverage to CBC’s in many ways. Emrick, Edzo and McGuire are great. Hughson is good too, but Emrick has the “big game feel” like Cole did for so many years at the CBC. MacLean and Cherry can’t get really tiresome after watching them for around 30 nights.

    The only two complaints I have about NBC’s coverage is the lack of a true studio host (I hear Patrick will be present beginning with game 5) and the picture quality. It seems that NBC doesn’t dim the effect of the lights bouncing off the ice like CBC, TSN and Versus do. It can be very hard on the head. I had a headache on Saturday and I had to switch to CBC because watching NBC was making it worse.

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