Staggered Start Times Could Be On the Horizon
April 25, 2011 9 Comments
From Bruce Dowbiggin of The Globe and Mail:
With double overtimes and improbable comebacks, the 2011 playoffs have staggered a lot of people. Usual Suspects has learned that, if the NHL has its way, the 2012 playoffs may be staggered. With the new U.S. broadcast contract allowing NBC and partner Comcast exclusivity over the playoffs, the league wants to take a page from NCAA March Madness and stagger the start times of the games so they don’t all go to intermission at the same time.
Sources say that spacing the start times of games will mean non-stop action for fans – and oblivion for creaky intermission features such as the sweaty player interview and the eccentric analyst in the loud suit. It works perfectly in the early rounds of the annual U.S. college basketball blowout, sending viewers seamlessly from one game to another as a period or half ends. (Plus, you can never get enough of the anthems.) Interruptions from panels and experts are kept to a blessed minimum, and advertisers know fans will not leave the TV for 15 minutes to water the horses or quench their thirst in the kitchen.
There are hurdles to overcome in implementing the format. Canadian broadcasters have to be onside with the plan. CBC, in particular, makes a lot of money from a certain intermission feature, and then there are the constraints of news programming that already resents being punted for the eight weeks of the postseason. Asking Hockey Night in Canada to delay the start of a game for 15 to 20 minutes so NBC and Comcast can start a U.S.-based game would produce political issues in the Mel Hurtig lounge.
Arena availabilities, time-zone issues and team preferences could also be a factor. But the league wants a festival-like feeling around the playoffs and intends to make it happen.
I gotta’ say, the more I think of the Stanley Cup Playoffs positioning itself as a hockey alternative to the NCAA Tournament, the more I like it. I’d totally be on board with something like this. It’d probably be a mess logistically until they got it right, but worth trying.