In A Tough Call For VERSUS, Other NBC/Comcast Networks Should Be Used As Overflow

It is everything that we imagine as hockey fans: playoff overtime. This is one of the things that is undeniably appealing about the sport, even to someone who has no understanding of it. The game becomes simple: score a goal, the game is over. If there are no goals, the game goes on … and on, and on, and on. Even as games head into second, third and potentially fourth overtimes, the game remains fascinating, a study in attrition, in just how much energy the best athletes on earth can expend until one of them slows down just enough to let another of them get the break they need to win it.

So, it is without surprise that – despite showing only the third period before it – VERSUS’ “Joined in Progress” broadcast of Rangers/Capitals from Comcast Sportsnet was followed into overtime, preempting in every market aside from New York and Washington, the entire first period of the Chicago/Vancouver back-end of the doubleheader, which featured original VERSUS production. Anyone outside of those two markets, and obviously Chicago, missed the only two goals scored of the game, both in the first period from Vancouver.

The two questions are: 1. was VERSUS right to do so? and 2. What can be done to fix it?

The first question is likely that VERSUS made the correct call. As annoyed as I imagine some might be to miss out on those two Vancouver goals, VERSUS has to chase what will get it higher ratings, something that can be difficult to do in the early rounds, when most of the time the local markets are shut out. Since they don’t have any local markets to be loyal to in Round 1 (save Phoenix last night) there’s not really a reason for them not to continue through an overtime featuring an Original Six team and one of the league’s biggest individual stars.

So what do we do about the second question, as far as what can VERSUS do about it? One of the readers commented last night that there was an overflow channel available to him, it was kept blacked out for last night. Even if it was in use for some people last night (I don’t have the channel) shouldn’t there be a better option for the over-flow of games?

Here’s a suggestion, though I’m sure one that would face obstacles: use one of the many Comcast/NBC networks that are now in cahoots with VERSUS since the merger. Honestly, what is the Golf Channel doing at 10PM ET? How about Universal Sports, which isn’t in as many homes as VERSUS, but is often in need of live programming? Heck, can’t the E! Channel put some hockey on? Their news editor, Ken Baker, wrote a hockey book once. There’s a ton of networks in the NBC/Comcast stable, why can’t one of them be used for a period or two of hockey every now and then?

The fact is, when you could watch the Rangers/Capitals game on three separate outlets (VERSUS, Center Ice and Game Center Live), there was no way of watching Blackhawks/Canucks on any such outlet. That is a complete disservice to the hardcore hockey fans, and something needs to be done about overflow content in the next television contract, if it can’t be fixed within this post-season.


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32 Responses to In A Tough Call For VERSUS, Other NBC/Comcast Networks Should Be Used As Overflow

  1. jkrdevil says:

    Steve, I think you missed the issue. Versus wasn’t showing Caps/Rangers OT when the 2 goals were scored. They were showing an intermission show when the two goals were shown. I don’t have a problem with them showing the OT over Nucks-Hawks, but between the third and OT they should of have shown the late game. No need to have Kieth Jones a Roenick talking and giving highlights. Show us live hockey in the meantime and then bring us back to the OT when it is time to start.

    As for potential overflow channels, use NHL Network.

    • nosferatu says:

      This is a big issue that Versus seems to have not figured out even after the regime change. We’ll see how it goes tonight, if the early games end on time. Will they take us right to San Jose for the start of the late game, or dilly dally with commercials and studio time after the game has already begun? If you’ve ever watched basketball, you know that if TNT has this happen, they will literally switch straight from one game to the next, no studio or commercials.

    • Caps Nut says:

      The problem with cutting to the VS. game on the left coast is that you whet the appitite of the viewers and then pull away to the east coast game heading into OT? IMHO think that’s a no-win situation.

  2. TANK1 says:

    I disagree with VS decision to not show the Blackhawks/Canucks from the opening face off. Not sure where all those ratings are coming from,that you say VS was looking for. I’m sure the fans watching on NHLCI ,MSG or CSN-MA stayed with those networks.

    For some reason tv executives think just because one of the teams playing is from Canada ,it’s not going to get good ratings. I would have went to Blackhawks/Canucks from the first drop of the puck . The Chicago tv market is a very large DMA to piss off. The Caps /rangers could have went to the VS overflow channel.

    If VS wants to have exclusive rights to games to have an obligation to show those games.

    • Caps Nut says:

      Well, as it relates to U.S. television and advertisers, Canadian markets don’t count. When the ratings are as low as they are in the U.S., you can’t risk it.

      Furthermore, the Canucks-Blackhawks game was on CBC in Canada so what Canadian fans would be watching VS anyway?

  3. leafsfan1967 says:

    Steve thanks for writing this. A couple of comments….

    To Tank1 folks in Chicago got the game on their local outlet so there was no problem for them. It was just the rest of us who had a problem.

    I agree that sticking with the OT game was the right choice. The problem is the other game should have been available too. The NHL has NHLCI and I still can’t figure out why the NHL won’t use THEIR OWN NETWORK!!! All they need to do is put a scrolling banner on Versus to direct viewers who wanted to watch the Hawks Canucks game to switch channels.

    It is stunning to me that no one at the NHL wouldn’t have thought of this potential problem and prepared for it. If they did think of it but didn’t prepare for it that is much worse and displays real contempt for hockey fans. If the NHL wants to be taken seriously they need to prepare for this sort of situation.

    For anyone who may think this is unfair, ask yourself if the NBA would allow this to happen?

    • nosferatu says:

      I have to say that I really don’t understand why the NHL can’t figure this out. And in this case, it’s mostly their fault, not Versus’.

      We see it all the time–the NHL Network has different programming for the U.S. and Canada. In a situation like last night’s, why couldn’t U.S. viewers be shifted over to the Hawks-Canucks until the overtime game is over? David Amber or another anchor could announce that “after the break, U.S. viewers will be taken to the start of the game in Vancouver…”

      Would this really be a bad decision for the NHL Network? They’d certainly get more viewers than they would for On the Fly, which will be repeated ad nauseum later. And it’s the league’s network! The league should think about serving fans as best they can!

      This is why, as a Sharks fan, I feel better about things when their games are on Center Ice and not Versus. It may not be in HD, and I may have to listen to an opposing team’s announcers, but at least I don’t have to fret that I’ll miss a huge chunk of their playoff games–after paying money to watch ALL of their games in their entirety throughout the regular season.

  4. Eric says:

    The problem I had as a Center Ices subscriber was that when VS. stayed on the Caps/NYR game, I then had it on THREE channels and didn’t have a single channel that was showing the Van/Chi game. I have VS. Alt, and check that, and checked the NHL Network, but nothing.
    I’m an out-of-market Sabres fan, and GOD HELP THEM if I have one game on three channels, but can’t watch the Sabres/Flyers (which I doubt will happen since it’s East coast, and it’s the West that get’s the screwing) anywhere.

  5. NJNHLFan42 says:

    @TANK – I’m in the Philly market and I can tell you first hand that myself, 5 others in my office, and a few other friends were glued to the OT, and only because it was OT. Otherwise, would have watched a few minutes of Van. – Chi and bed time.

  6. Al says:

    I’m glad to see that someone has called out Versus for this. I hope but doubt the NHL will do anything about it but Versus can’t be allowed to have “exclusive” national rights to a game and then not show it at all. I thought the whole reason VS had an “alternate” channel was to address situations like this. All they had to do was move the Chi/Van to the alternate channel or an NBC channel or SOMEPLACE. And that should happen any time the first game bleeds over into the second game.

    The way VS handled the situation last night was ridiculous but I fully expect it to happen again. They simply don’t seem to care.

  7. Mike in Idaho says:

    Answers to your questions:
    1. No. They had exclusive rights to CHI/VAN and NYR/WAS was a bonus game, so the bonus game should only be used as a filler during intermissions or the time between games.
    2. There are many ways to fix it, most of which everyone has said. Use the NHLN as an overflow channel. Have Versus’ alternate channel (available on DirecTV for the playoffs apparently) be an overflow channel. At the very least don’t have a full intermission show when the first period of the game they are supposed to be showing is on. Versus really blew it last night, watching late games is really going to be annoying to impossible this year.

  8. Chief says:

    Shouldn’t VS have an overflow deal with Comcast? I mean it’s the same company and it would enhance the value of the cable fee I pay every month. If DirecTV has an alternate channel, then Comcast definitely should have one.

  9. Arthur says:

    It’s funny that Steve is not ripping his God Sam Flood on this one isn’t it?

    • stevelepore says:

      It’d be nice if you could choose not to be a jerk in between spurts of actual information. Fact is, I’m not going to single out anyone when I’m criticizing the decisions of a network. I’m sure there is no one individual person in control of this.

      If you can’t say something of value, then don’t bother.

      • Arthur says:

        i wasn’t referring to you, but the other Steve who has glorified Sam Flood.
        Why don’t you put Al and Mike in Idaho in their place. There are no “exclusives” for Versus in the first round. Home and away broadcasters are also covering the games. Do any of you realize that blackout restrictions are in place and they must be lifted once a game ends before Versus can switch over to another game?

      • stevelepore says:

        Arthur’s correct, and I apologize.

  10. leafsfan1967 says:

    >>There are no “exclusives” for Versus in the first round. Home and away broadcasters are also covering the >>games. Do any of you realize that blackout restrictions are in place and they must be lifted once a game >>ends before Versus can switch over to another game?

    I’m sorry but I don’t understand how this helps to explain last night. Are you saying that the Vancouver Chicago game had to be blacked out until the Rangers and Caps had finished?

  11. Arthur says:

    Your readers are terribly uninformed when it comes to how broadcasting works. They are looking for you to inform them. Do it, unless you are incapable of it.
    Apology accepted

    • leafsfan1967 says:

      Come on Arthur don’t beat up on Steve or anyone else here. If Steve, or others haven’t correctly explained what happened last night, please enlighten us. I’m genuinely puzzled as to how last night’s fiasco could have occurred.

    • stevelepore says:

      I’m currently working on getting an official answer from VERSUS at this point.

      • nosferatu says:

        This will be interesting to hear, but this is an issue that’s bigger than just Versus. The league itself needs to figure this out, either now or in their next television contract. Somehow. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is basically a nightly occurrence throughout the first round.

        There are so many JIP games on Versus that the network and league are walking a fine line between providing maximum access and screwing up the viewing experience for hard-core fans. But I don’t know–fewer JIP games won’t exactly please the masses, either.

  12. leafsfan1967 says:

    >>I’m currently working on getting an official answer from VERSUS at this point.

    Thanks Steve. I’ll look forward to your answer…..

  13. Mike in Idaho says:

    Arthur, I meant national out of market rights when I said exclusive, as in an out of market viewer to CHI/VAN last night had to watch the game exclusively on Versus because Versus had out of market rights to that game and the game was not on Center Ice. Sorry for the confusion of terms, but I think my points remain valid. Versus would have been well within their rights (and I think they should have) to go straight to the start of the Vancouver/Chicago game and update viewers however they saw fit on the Rangers/Caps. There were no blackout regulations involved in the scenario I just stated.

  14. Ryan says:

    After PIT/TB ended, I switched over to WAS/NYR. VAN/CHI was the only game I was really interested in watching last night, but once WAS/NYR went into overtime, I wasn’t changing the channel for anything. Surprised I’m such a minority.

    • Morgan Wick says:

      The same reason everyone rejoiced at the NCAA Tournament going to four networks even though CBS was already doing a good job taking us to the finish of every game. It’s all about choices.

  15. Larry says:

    Steve find out why DIRECTV didn’t show games in HD since sunday. ALL ci games including tonightare not in hd. John collins please help!

    • Martin says:

      That’s a problem on your end. All the games on Direc have been in HD. Even an Hd Flyers feed is on 771.

  16. Caps Nut says:

    Even if VS was able to shift one of the games to an alternate NBC/Universal Channel (I have Universal Sports on my Comcast-Arlington/Alexandria lineup, what would be the most logical choice) you would have two problems; #1. Getting people to flip over to that channell to watch the game in question. #2. Assuming that people know where that alternate channel is in their particular channel lineup because it is different from system to system.

    And this doesn’t take into account throwing people’s DVR’s off track…

    Look, there’s no easy answer to this situation and I think VS handled it properly. (For the record, I was at the Caps-Rangers game so this didn’t have any effect on me) A playoff overtime period is much more important (and compelling for that matter) than the first period of another playoff game.

    But all-in-all, no matter what VS decides, people are going to be upset at the decision.

    • Arthur says:

      Caps Nut is right on target here. You people are never happy no matter what Versus does.

      • stevelepore says:

        And the funny thing is … VERSUS’ ratings keep going up, with the Rangers/Caps overtime drawing higher numbers than either of the other games.

        If they were doing something really wrong, ratings would drop.

      • nosferatu says:

        “You people” are the people watching, the people who really matter in a business like this (along with sponsors, of course). Without us, you people–Arthur–would be looking for other jobs. I’ve been a defender of Versus for the most part, and I say that this is a situation bigger than Versus, one that the league itself needs to help figure out a solution to, but Versus is in the business of satisfying their customers. I like to think that someone behind the scenes there is at least thinking of new ways to do that.

        And I think Steve’s point above, about the audiences increasing, makes it even more imperative that some of these issues are addressed, either now or with the new TV rights deal. More viewers = more exposure and pressure on Versus.

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