“Bettman has only a marginal interest in the weaker teams. He only wants the NHL to make a bigger profit as a whole.” -- Dominik Hasek

May 21, 2007

Hey Hockey Fans, Why The Long Face?

Great is the furor over NBC's decision to dump Saturday's matchup between the Senators and Sabres to Versus once the game went to overtime, in favor of their extended Preakness Stakes horse race coverage. While fans in Buffalo weren't effected, everyone else in the US was, including me. I didn't care too much since I have Versus and watch hockey on that channel all the time. Others, however, don't have it or can't remember what number it is on their TV menu and are understandably grumpy about it.

Why did NBC do it? Some smell a conspiracy between the NHL (specifically Fuhrer Bettman) and NBC, but I'm not buying it. What I am buying is what advertisers are buying---namely, time during a major horse race with at least some national appeal. NBC charged an arm and a leg for commercial space during their multi-hour coverage of a two-minute horse race, and they deferred to those advertisers when deciding which sports event to air. Simply put: there is more money in the Triple Crown of horse racing than there is the Eastern Conference Finals of the NHL playoffs. And I'm not the only one who realizes this.

Now, this isn't always the case for horses, because I remember several weeks ago when an OT game was shown in its entirety on NBC and a scheduled special ridiculously called "Barbaro: A Nation's Horse" (where are our royalty checks?) was dumped over to CNBC to make way. So it's not always the case that NBC has deferred to other programming when hockey games go long.

I don't believe that Gary Bettman specifically worked with NBC to dump the Sens/Sabres game as soon as it went to OT as a premeditated way to encourage shootouts in the post-season. After all, a shootout would have taken at least a half hour to complete, and NBC switched over to their Preakness coverage the second the game went to overtime. They wouldn't have covered a shootout either.

I do believe, however, that this incident will be used by pro-shootout factions to justify a switch in future playoffs. "See, if there were shootouts in the playoffs, networks like NBC wouldn't dump their coverage because OT takes too long." That's garbage, but I'm sure someone will say it.

At any rate, I got to see the game-winning goal by Alfredsson and the dejected look on the faces of all the Sabres, so it was worth it, even if it was on Versus...


B_Washington said...

I agree completely. Bettemen can't even tie his shoes straight, let alone orginize a conspiricy of this magnitude.

B_Washington said...

I love the joke that's the title too

Teebz said...

I'll be honest: this was less to do with the NHL, and more to do with NBC. The NHL and NBC share any profits made by advertising. NBC sold the commercials during the Preakness for much more money.

NBC did what they had to do in order to turn a profit. The NHL screwed themselves over when they signed this deal.

Dear Lord Stanley said...

Exactly, no better way to put it.

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