February 17, 2010
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Did you happen to pop into our Canada vs. Norway live chat yesterday during the first period? We guarantee it was the most entertaining women's curling blog on the Web.
The start of CNBC's coverage of this highly anticipated hockey game was a complete mess, instigated by a U.S. vs. Japan women's curling match that went into overtime or extra innings or sudden death brooming or whatever it's called.
You see, it was important for CNBC to stay with women's curling because they promoted the heck out of the event during the U.S. men's hockey game earlier in the day, with an interview featuring ... oh, wait, that was Sidney Crosby(notes) of the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, whose Team Canada game was being preempted by preliminary round women's curling? Our mistake.
So the Canada game started late into the first period over on MSNBC, before it was moved back to CNBC around 8 p.m. EST, so the Peacock's cable news outlet could fulfill its nightly obligations of progressive indignation and Sarah Palin outrage.
The delays, the pingponging between networks ... this did not sit well with hockey fans, nor should it. NBC has already had to justify its controversial scheduling decisions regarding hockey once in this tournament; are puckheads getting fed up with the coverage?
Oh, the puckheads, they did weep. From Fred Huebner of Chicago Now:
I finished dinner and got ready for the game, and to my surprise, I was forced to watch women's curling. REALLY!!! I was hoping that maybe the NBC group of stations would switch the game to another outlet. I did tune in three minutes after six o'clock, so maybe they did, but I checked NBC and MSNBC and couldn't find the game anywhere.
No wonder NBC is struggling ratings wise with these games. The one thing people actually tune in for, and you can't see it when you want to, and when it should be viewable. Who wants to see curling besides, possibly, people that know the participants personally.
From Tab Bamford of the Bleacher Report (and no, we didn't already write this, thanks for asking):
Canada's men's hockey team was supposed to air on MSNBC, but because of an extended women's curling event, they put the start of the game on CNBC. However, before they were ready to switch the coverage back to MSNBC, they cut the coverage off on CNBC only to force hockey fans to watch a post match wrap up and three commercial breaks, all while a big part of the first period was played to a phantom television audience.
Hockey media blogger Steve Lepore of Puck The Media broke down the coverage breakdown:
For people to miss half the first period of the host nation, Team Canada, in their first game because of curling and a 13-0 women's hockey game is downright lunacy.
With a 7:30 PM start time, it was an initial mistake by NBC to list the game as starting at 8PM on CNBC at the listings page of their website. In their press release, they merely listed it as following USA-Japan in women's curling. Alas, the curling match went long. It ended around 7:45. This is fair enough, as it was a close match, and it is Team USA, and curling is kind of awesome.
But NBC needed to pick up the slack here. They had USA-Russia in women's hockey over on MSNBC, with the score at 13-0 Americans. Women's hockey, especially Team USA, is an important thing to pump up. Seriously though, the game was 13-0 with five minutes left. They should've absolutely switched games and not waited for the women's game to end. Even a compromise of sticking with Team USA on MSNBC HD and going to men's hockey on the normal channel would've been good.
Look, NBC took it on its Leno-size chin for not having USA/Canada on the main network this Sunday, and that criticism was a bit unfair: The network's rationalization for that decision, both demographically and strategically, is completely defensible. The flagship NBC broadcast station has different considerations than its cable partners, and ice dancing trumps hockey on national television because hockey isn't a draw in broadcast prime time.
In the cable landscape, however, hockey is a sufficient draw; and a game featuring Crosby, the San Jose Sharks' superstars, and the rest of those NHL celebrities should trump women's curling and a blowout in women's hockey – no questions asked – every single time.
These little mistakes and indirect insults add up for hockey fans. The quality of NBC's hockey coverage has been all over the map. This Milbury/Roenick forced banter was at least more interesting than the usual between-periods stuff because they may actually come to blows one day:
But again: Outside of some Washington Capitals fans getting edged over Milbury for the 100,000th time, the story today isn't about what NBC gave hockey fans but what they held back from them. It shouldn't happen again.