NBC Gets It (Mostly) Right on Night One
April 12, 2012 12 Comments
There were a couple of complaints about last night’s opening of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on the networks of NBCUniversal. They were largely due to blackouts in places where there shouldn’t have been such cases, like in Atlanta – or as some of you commented, in New Jersey. Things were corrected in Atlanta by the time CNBC finished their broadcast of Red Wings-Predators, Game 1. I got no such update on the other situations, but it appears they were only in small spots.
Other than that, however, it’d be hard to find anything wrong with how NBC did things Wednesday, and it appears they’d thought of everything. I had some worries about what would happen to the Los Angeles-Vancouver game on NBC Sports Network due to the Penguins-Flyers game heading into OT. However, the NHL tweeted out almost simultaneously as Jakub Voracek scored the overtime winner, that if necessary, the Canucks-Kings series opener would be beginning on NHL Network. It’s good to know that – even if the NHL Network’s reach isn’t the same as NBCSN or especially CNBC – that they have thought of everything in these situations and are prepared to utilize what they need to get games on the air.
For the first time since 2004, hockey fans in the United States had the option of watching two Stanley Cup Playoff games at the same time without resorting to a pay-per-view or internet streaming package. NBC Sports Network aired Philadelphia/Pittsburgh, while Detroit/Nashville aired on CNBC. There was no drop-off from network to network in terms of production quality. NBC had their top two teams (Mike Emrick and Pierre McGuire; Dave Strader and Brian Engblom) working these tilts, and it turned into a great start to the playoffs, complete with a newsmaking Mike Babcock interview from Engblom and an overtime game right off the bat.
But it was how NBC went further – including setting up overload programming nicely – that mattered most. A one-hour pre-game show to set up all eight Conference Quarterfinals. A separate studio and post-game show for CNBC, with Bill Patrick and Jeremy Roenick focusing solely on the game on that network. Finally, the network used three broadcast crews last night, with John Forslund and Brian Hayward in Vancouver for the Kings/Canucks game (the lone technical error of the night came from that game, where Zack Kassian was billed as Cody Hodgson in one graphic). In years past, a game like this would have almost certainly been simulcast from CBC. Or, as a consequence of sending a crew, would force the late game the next night into simulcast mode.
Now, I don’t know if NBCSN will keep up this production pace tomorrow (I don’t have the talent list for tonight yet). I do know that Daryl Reaugh will be forming a fourth team for, in all likelihood, the Boston-Washington game. Also, TSN has indicated they will be taking the CNBC feed for Sharks-Blues, which means NBC could end up with five or six original feeds. For all I know, they could use CSN’s feed Sharks-Blues and TSN’s for Blackhawks-Coyotes. But no matter what, the greater commitment is there, where it wasn’t in the past.
Take, for example, the commercials on CNBC. The network, it seems, forced it’s talent from their various programs during the day (Mad Money, The Kudlow Report, etc.) to go out and shoot hockey-themed promos. We will all undoubtedly be sick of these spots by the end of round two in a few weeks, but it’s cool to see that CNBC went to the effort to mesh hockey with the rest of their network. They had a countdown clock during Kudlow for when the Red Wings-Predators game would begin. NBC in no way half-assed things on Wednesday. Also, NBC had banners promoting Olympic coverage on the boards in Nashville and Pittsburgh.
That’s all hockey fans want, in my estimation. They want a feeling that the network responsible for bringing hockey to the masses is putting out an all-hands-on-deck effort for what is, essentially, their prize possession. That was extremely evident on Wednesday night. While there may have been some worries that the network might not be capable of pulling this off, it was all evidence to the contrary during the opening night of sports’ greatest tournament, which finally had coverage befitting such an event.