NBC's first day of NHL coverage marks first day of failure
"Regional hockey coverage" in the West ended when the broadcast suddenly switched to Flyers/Penguins in the third period of the opening game, leaving fans in the lurch. The Kings and Blackhawks traded goals just minutes after the switch.
First NBC made sure that everyone got to watch the banner raising ceremony before the Kings played their home opener against the Blackhawks. Then they made sure that most of the country couldn't watch the end of it.
Fans were left in the lurch when the network made the decision to go back on its split regional coverage plan without any warning. Only viewers in Chicago and LA proper got to see the rest of the third period. Elsewhere in California or Illinois? Anywhere in the West at all? Nope, too bad.
I live in Seattle. Our plan to meet up with friends at our usual bar to watch the game suddenly became a trainwreck. We had no idea why the Kings coverage was interrupted, or what to do next; we sat there for a while hoping there was some technical glitch. Almost immediately after we lost the ability to watch, the Kings and Blackhawks traded goals. We had to discover this--and the howls of rage from other frustrated fans--scrolling frantically on our phones.
Because NBC had picked up the game, local affiliates couldn't cover this important opening day. Center Ice, the usual go-to for out-of-market fans, wasn't an option. You could stream the game for free if you were near a computer -- until, incredibly, the live stream of that switched to Penguins/Flyers too.
Hockey is back! Except when it isn't.
Just pick one already
This dithering is unacceptable and counter-productive. Let's just cut it out.
Look, I get it. NBC thought, "Oh, they're down by three goals, the game's probably over. Pittsburgh against Philadelphia has always gotten higher ratings. Let's just join them..."
But it left a segment of the market completely out of options. A passionate, dedicated segment.
That's why it's so important to have a plan and stick to it.
Go ahead, make Crosby vs. Giroux the marquee event of the afternoon. You will get eyeballs. But don't jerk around all the other fans who simply wanted to watch their favorite teams play after seven months of waiting. Viewers at home made plans around this day, circled the calendar, gathered to watch. They have a right to know what to expect.
Trust me, NBC. You don't want to make more diehards frustrated and angry. Ditch the split coverage plan, go with the game that will probably get the highest ratings, and leave the rest alone. You won't ever succeed in growing the game if fans can't see them.
First day of coverage: F.