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Horses Vs. Hockey

Here's a little more about NBC's decision to switch from the Sabres-Senators elimination game to the Preakness Stakes on Saturday -- just before overtime. NBC certainly didn't win over any hockey fans, but the ratings explain why the decision was made.

From Michael Hiestand's column in USA Today:

It's up to the leagues to stand up for themselves because networks have separate interests.
When the Buffalo Sabres-Ottawa Senators NHL playoff game went into overtime Saturday just as NBC was ready to start its Preakness Stakes coverage, it was no surprise that NBC skated away. The horse racing coverage ended up with a 5.4 overnight rating, translating to 5.4% of households in urban markets, while Ottawa's win got a 1.2 overnight. NBC's NHL playoff games are drawing about 1% of U.S. households -- meaning they have a good shot at barely topping NBC's old Arena Football League playoff ratings. The Buffalo-Ottawa overtime aired on Versus, which has about 20 million fewer households than the NBC-owned USA Network and MSNBC as well as ESPN, the NHL's former cable TV outlet.

Here's another take from The Toronto Star:

NBC made a business decision here, choosing high-priced horse advertising over a commercial-free overtime.
But what does this say about the NHL?
It says the league is so desperate to please American networks that it's willing to take this kind of abuse. This is the same league that scheduled Saturday's game for 2 p.m. to appease NBC. That decision deprived Ottawa fans of a traditional Saturday night spot while costing the loyal CBC hundreds of thousands of viewers and countless dollars in ad revenues.
For kowtowing to NBC, the league gets a slap in the face.

It was more like a haymaker.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  May 21, 2007; 7:50 AM ET
 
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Comments

God how far Hockey has fallen.

Bettman is an absolute Retard. I think i might be starting to actually believe the theories that he is an NBA spy sent to sabatoge the NHL

Posted by: Comebackkono3 | May 21, 2007 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Of course, rather than the smart thing of justing putting the game on Versus or starting at 1 PM or having a contract requiring broadcast partners to carry the game to completion, Bettman and his moron lackeys will likely explore changes to the OT format. Other than getting the owners the salary cap they wanted, has Bettman actually done anything useful ever?

Posted by: tallbear | May 21, 2007 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Hey Tarik,
Any chance you'll be able to get up to Hershey for a game? I know the Post probably wouldn't let you cover it for the paper, but you could cover it here in the blog. I'm sure there's more than a few of us from DC who go up for every game that would give you a ride so your costs would be down, though I don't know if you'd want to spend that much time in a car with us hockey crazed fools. LOL

Posted by: Jay | May 21, 2007 9:58 AM | Report abuse

I want to make it up there. But between the project I'm working on, comp days, auto racing (I"m leaving for Indy tomorrow) it's tough. You know it's bad when I can say I haven't played golf in six weeks.

But I would like to make up there at lease once, perhaps when they can clinch the Calder.

Posted by: Tarik | May 21, 2007 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Bettman is dumb. Make Messier the new commish, then we'll see if we miss Bettman and his love of power plays.

Posted by: Graham | May 21, 2007 10:26 AM | Report abuse

The reality is that every aspect of Bettman's leadership has been a disaster for this league. When he came in, the league had just expanded to Florida and Anaheim, Gretzky was hosting Saturday Night Live, and hockey was starting to pick up some real national momentum and legitimacy. A decade and a half later, the league is relegated to a third-rate cable channel (who, admittedly, does a fantastic job with the games), suffers from a precipitously declining audience, and is no longer even considered a serious national sport.

Is there any talk of accountability here? When will his 'accountability moment' come? Do we fans have any light at the end of the tunnel to look forward to?

Tell us what you've heard, Tarik.

Posted by: katzistan | May 21, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I had to DVR the game and I was pretty pissed that I missed OT.

Posted by: Sonia | May 21, 2007 12:33 PM | Report abuse

If you want fans to come to games, you have to make it affordable. Yes, when hockey hit it's boom in the early 90's, tickets were still affordable and spur-of-the-moment happenings of going to the game actually still happened.

Now a days, you need to plan your night for dinner because the price of concessions is so high, transportation to and from is mediocre at best and you don't get as much coverage on TV.

Part of the problem is the high cost of tickets. I used to just hop in the car and head over to Landover sometimes to go to a game. Now, if it's 5:30 and I want to go to a Caps game, I'm lucky to get there with 10 minutes left in the first period and be hungry to whole time through. Then I have to fight my way back on Metro (or through DC traffic if I drive) and then back home by 11 p.m. or even midnight in some cases if I want to eat something.

I could leave work at 5:30, get to Landover (which is farther away than the phone booth is from me) by 6:30 with enough time to go the other way on Central Avenue to get something to eat, cheap and fast. Then over to the game which was over by 9:30 or 10 p.m., take about 10-15 minutes to get out of the arena, then 45 minutes home. That means I'm home by 11 at the latest.

Posted by: Want Fan$$$ | May 21, 2007 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Want Fan$$$$-- back in the day you could get to Landover in an hour from where ever because -- and this may be a shock to some -- traffic was NOT as BAD as it is now. Now, good luck trying to get to Landover from downtown or VA in an hour.

Posted by: Go Skins Go | May 21, 2007 1:11 PM | Report abuse

From a marketing perspective, wouldn't it have made at least SOME sense to drop 20 minutes or so of the horserace hype to give viewers a taste of NHL playoff OT (even if they couldn't stay with the hockey game until completion)? It seems to me that NBC blew a chance to promote the NHL to a captive audience, and also to show TWO dramatic finishes within a span of a half hour or so.

Posted by: capsdude | May 21, 2007 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Tarik,
Sweet that you are getting to go to Indy! Very nice. Hopefully you can make it up in the Finals (assuming things stay as they are now). Its such a awesome experience I suggest everyone who can get up to Hershey for a game (or more!).

It seriously makes me think about trying to get a job in Harrisburg or even Baltimore to be a little closer so I could do season tickets up there. I'm willing to make the 2+ hour drive any night for the playoffs but doing that regularly (at least on week nights) during the season would be tough. Since I gave up my Caps season tickets I know I'll definitely make it up to Hershey for more games next season in addition to going to a few Caps games here and there.

Posted by: Jay | May 21, 2007 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Before people execute Bettman, realize he gave the owners the illusion of "cost certainty" (even though he had to liberalize free agency to do it) and he helped bust the players union. That means a helluva lot more to the the NHL board of directors than national TV exposure, which never threw off big money the way it does in the NFL or NBA. The best hope for the hockey-starved is we eventually get the games we want a la carte and for a price on the league's web site.
As for Tarik, his recent statement on Kornheiser's show rang true: I read the America's Cup coverage before the wire piece on Anaheim-Detroit.

Posted by: cheapseats | May 21, 2007 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Just did it. If anything it was 5 minutes longer from near Hayfield High School. I'll do it tomorrow around 5:30 though but the commute is different now than it was before.

The whole point is that it has to be more affordable to go. If I want to actually see the game from a good seat, it's at least $300 for four of us. For that same $300, I can enroll four kids into a season of Little League Baseball or sponsor one team in many local Little Leagues. For that same $300, I could take the family out several times to see the Baysox or the arena football team or the softball team and still have money left over to buy a program, get autographs, eat, etc. With the downtown arena, I can't take the kids to meet Alex Ovechkin after the game like we could with Dino Ciccarelli, Dale Hunter and those guys.

The access to the players has also lacked in recent years. It's great that the team was out in Ashburn and now over in Arlington, however they're there mornings during the week and the kids have school. We get tickets to three or four Caps games a year through neighbor's children who play hockey and we go and sit in the upper deck. The kids wind up playing hockey in the hallways midway through the first period and the adults sit and chat with each other. I could do that at home and save the hassle with parking, tickets, and all that.

Posted by: Want Fan$$$ | May 21, 2007 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Just did it. If anything it was 5 minutes longer from near Hayfield High School. I'll do it tomorrow around 5:30 though but the commute is different now than it was before.

The whole point is that it has to be more affordable to go. If I want to actually see the game from a good seat, it's at least $300 for four of us. For that same $300, I can enroll four kids into a season of Little League Baseball or sponsor one team in many local Little Leagues. For that same $300, I could take the family out several times to see the Baysox or the arena football team or the softball team and still have money left over to buy a program, get autographs, eat, etc. With the downtown arena, I can't take the kids to meet Alex Ovechkin after the game like we could with Dino Ciccarelli, Dale Hunter and those guys.

The access to the players has also lacked in recent years. It's great that the team was out in Ashburn and now over in Arlington, however they're there mornings during the week and the kids have school. We get tickets to three or four Caps games a year through neighbor's children who play hockey and we go and sit in the upper deck. The kids wind up playing hockey in the hallways midway through the first period and the adults sit and chat with each other. I could do that at home and save the hassle with parking, tickets, and all that.

Posted by: Want Fan$$$ | May 21, 2007 4:52 PM | Report abuse

heh
funny

Posted by: Andrey | May 22, 2007 10:26 AM | Report abuse

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