On this first day in May, it is time to take a look at how a couple of networks could improve their presentations during postseason time. As teams raise their game, so should the networks as more people watch and focus on the action on the court or the ice. This is not where networks should skimp and give the fans the impression that they’re cheap.
Not Stepping Up in the Postseason
We’re seeing this especially in the NBA and NHL Playoffs where NBA TV and Versus are showcasing their respective sports during the most important time of the year for both leagues. However, what they doing is leaving fans with a bad taste by not giving them national broadcasts and using local feeds catered to local markets.
It’s one thing to do this during the regular season. NBA TV will tap local feeds to give fans a taste of the local announcers and that’s ok. Regular season is fine to this. But during the postseason, this is where NBA TV which is run by Turner Sports can use TNT’s announcers for the calls. There have been blatant examples where NBA TV used local feeds for national audiences and it led to some awkward moments.
Last week in the Sports Media Weekly podcast, I asked the Vice President of Content for NBA Digital, Albert “Scooter” Vertino if this policy will be reconsidered for next season and he said it will be. I certainly hope so because fans expect to hear neutral calls during the postseason.
Imagine if Major League Baseball allowed local TV feeds in the postseason (they don’t, but let’s say they do) and TBS decided to use the WGN America feed of the Chicago White Sox and fans were subjected to Hawk Harrelson’s homer announcing. It would not go over well at all. It’s the same instance where NBA TV and Versus are tapping into local feeds and dissing the fans.
Versus, which is the exclusive cable partner for the NHL, did exactly this in the first round and now into the second round of the postseason. It tapped into Comcast SportsNet local feeds in Chicago, Philadelphia, San Jose and Washington and to augment its coverage. It’s one thing when action overlapped and Versus was joining in progress, but it’s totally another to use them for an entire game as was the case with the Chicago-Vancouver and the San Jose-Los Angeles series. Yes, Versus and Comcast SportsNet are under the same corporate umbrella, but there’s no reason why we should be hearing local announcers at this juncture.
And it happened again Friday night with Game 1 of the San Jose-Detroit series. There’s no way this should occur, especially in the 2nd round. There are fewer games and more staff is available. This smacks of laziness and refusal to give fans the best product possible.
I certainly hope next season, both Turner Sports and Versus will rectify this. And with Versus promising to air every NHL playoff game nationally, it had better step up and not provide local feeds. Fans around the country deserve better.
Where Was Figure Skating Last Week?
This past week, the World Figure Skating Championships took place in Moscow, a month after it was originally scheduled for Tokyo, Japan, however, as we know, the earthquake and tsunami forced the event to move. Unless you are a big figure skating fan, you probably didn’t know that the event was taking place because none of the major networks, ESPN/ABC, CBS, NBC, Versus, Fox/FX/Fox Sports Net carried it. While NBCUniversal has the rights to the event, it chose to air the Worlds on Universal Sports, which is carried on NBC local affiliates’ secondary digital channel in several markets or on cable sports tiers which is home to networks like Tennis Channel, ESPN Classic or ESPNU.
You could have also seen the Worlds online, but for a fee. Of course, only diehard fans would shell out the money to watch the Championships, but this is not unlimited access that an over the network or even ESPN could provide.
Ever since the oversaturation of figure skating in the mid-1990′s, the sport has struggled to find an audience. After the monster ratings following the Tanya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan incident during the 1994 Olympics, networks tried to cash in by creating a plethora of figure skating programming, but the viewership bottomed out and in the 2000′s, the World Championships have struggled to find a home. ESPN had the rights, but allowed the contract to expire and NBC picked them up. Last year, Oxygen and NBC shared the event.
NBC aired the US Figure Skating Championships in conjunction with Universal this year, but at least gave the event a showcase including the ladies event live in primetime. I had originally thought NBC would do something similar with the World Championships, but was surprised to learn that Universal would carry the entire event this year.
And while I’m sure Universal treated the event well, figure skating fans had to scramble to see it. Next year’s event is scheduled for Nice, France and I’m not sure if NBC will lend the event to Universal again. If figure skating wants to gain popularity, putting the event on Universal may not be the way to go unless NBC and Comcast get more aggressive to place the channel on more cable and satellite providers.
One Last Thought
Friday was the last day for one of the nicer sports TV public relations people. Megan Bondi left Turner Sports to become a full-time mom. Now, that name is probably familiar to you unless you work in the industry. Since Fang’s Bites started receiving press releases from the networks, Megan has been one of the people who have patiently answered my silly questions and requests without sending back an angry reply. Actually, no one at the sports networks has sent back an angry reply, but I’m sure some people at ESPN would like to.
Megan has worked tirelessly providing press releases for the NBA, Open Championship, PGA Championship, MLB and this year for the first time, the NCAA Championship.
You may think writing press releases is easy, but having done them, it’s not. You have to make sure quotes are correct, ratings information is accurate, ensure that the message is not being altered and make sure that the network is being promoted all at the same time. Public relations also deals with suggesting interviews, e-mailing or calling reporters or bloggers at all times of the day and it’s not really a 9-5 job.
Through it all, Megan did it wonderfully and treated me with kindness. The old saying goes you treat people like you want to be treated and I have nothing but the utmost respect for her and the others at Turner Sports. Megan will be missed and I wish her nothing but the best of luck in the next phase of her life.
And those are your Sunday thoughts for today.