Damien Cox (poorly) attempted to step outside of his comfort zone of covering the Maple Leafs tonight when he said that NBC should have a Canadian team play in the Winter Classic. Now, on face value, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea. However, from a TV perspective, it makes no business sense for NBC (more to come on that). Here is a collection of Tweets from Cox about his viewpoint on the Winter Classic.
- “Gotta laugh at how NHL celebrates only U.S. teams for Winter Classic while revenues of six Canadian teams carry entire league.”
- “Watching NBC/NHL pretend Canada doesn’t exist over next two days makes you. . . pray for rain. . . :)”
- “First NHL outdoor game was, of course, in Edmonton. But don’t expect to hear that on Saturday. Canadian NHL teams need not apply.”
- “And the rest of the schedule this season for the NHL on NBC? Not a single Canadian team. They just pay the bills, I guess. What an insult.”
- “You’d think NBC might want to show the league’s reigning MVP. . . .” (Defending MVP is the Canucks Henrik Sedin if you forgot. I know I did. All I remember is Jon Toews in the Playoffs last year because that is what matters.)
- When asked what Canadian team NBC should air, Cox replied, “Oh, I dunno. Maybe the Montreal Canadiens, the most successful team in the history of the freakin’ league.”
- “Thirteen teams in NHL received revenue sharing last season. All in United States. I’m just sayin’. . . . .”
- “Total would include Islanders except that’s defined as a “large” market, therefore ineligible.”
- “Last few Winter Classics generated about 4 million viewers. Geez, that’s not even a Grey Cup.”
And my personal favourite, in reply to Puck Daddy editor Greg Wyshynski’s remark “Talk about clueless: You know NBC doesn’t show Canadian teams b/c Canadian viewers don’t factor into U.S. ratings, right?”, Cox said, “Talk about desperate. You’re counting a pre-season game in a parking lot? C’mon.”
Now I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a clue in hell what Cox is talking about. However, he certainly is the one who is coming off desperate. Wyshynski brought up a great point and Cox didn’t have a real answer. Also, little does Cox know that the hockey community views Wyshynski as a better writter than him.
Now, let me expand on why NBC doesn’t have a Canadian team air in the Winter Classic. By airing a game between Pittsburgh and Washington they bring in a potential 8 million viewers between those two markets alone. All of a sudden if the matchup was even Washington-Montreal, that number would be cut down to a potential 5.4 million viewers in the home market of Washington. The 3 and a half million people in the Montreal area don’t count for NBC because advertisers only care about the US market, so their numbers don’t include Canadian viewers.
To his point of Canadian teams’ revenue carrying the entire league. I won’t question him as to whether its true, but it wasn’t that long ago that the likes of the Senators and Oilers certainly weren’t carrying the league. If he wants to make that argument, I’ll counter that Crosby and Ovechkin carry the entire league marketing wise. No Canadian team can offer a player with the brand name of those two.
On to the next point, I’ve never seen NBC ignore Canada. If anything, the NHL on NBC mentions Canada more than they have to. Doc Emrick and Eddie Olczyk (who played in Winnipeg) love Canada and mention Canadian teams more than the MLB on Fox or NBA on ABC mention Canadian teams in those leagues. NBC’s producer also loves Canada, in particular the Montreal Canadiens. That is why NBC televised a game from Montreal against the Rangers a couple of seasons ago. There is no way that NBC had to go a Canadiens game because the ratings were way down, but they did it out of respect for the Canadiens game. So, if Cox thinks that NBC doesn’t care about Canada, he couldn’t be more wrong.
Now I could have a different opinion than the rest of the country, but I’m not insulted about not seeing a Canadian team on NBC. Personally I like the NBC Sunday games as a great chance to see a game involving US teams. Complaining about NBC not showing a Canadian team is like complaining about CBC not showing a game between the Thrashers and Panthers.
Oh, that reminds me. Here in Canada people will watch hockey almost regardless of who is playing. There are lots of Bruins, Blackhawks, Rangers, Red Wings, Wild, Sabres etc. fans in Canada. There aren’t many casual American fans who like the Leafs or Canadiens (and certainly not any of the other Canadian teams). That would be like expecting a casual soccer fan from London to have Rangers or Celtic as their favourite team over the plethora of teams in the London area. My point is, CBC and TSN can get away with showing American teams because hockey is king in Canada, it will still get good ratings. That isn’t true in the States. NBC needs to maximize ratings because otherwise, the ratings wouldn’t even be good enough to have games on an OTA network.
Lastly, how can he compare the US rating for the Winter Classic to the Canadian rating for the Grey Cup. That is comparing apples to oranges. The Grey Cup is the biggest sporting event in Canada, surely he doesn’t think the Winter Classic is (or should be) the biggest sporting event in the US. The Grey Cup competes against one NFL games (which it has a 2 hour headstart on), while the Winter Classic competes against numerous college football bowl games featuring teams from the Big Ten. The Big Ten has 4 bowl games that compete head to head with the Winter Classic. That means that every team had a 1/3 shot of playing in that timeslot. That includes Penn State (Philadelphia market), Michigan and Michigan State (Detroit market), Illinois and Northwestern (Chicago market) and Minnestona (Minneapolis/St. Paul market) all have a good chance of having one of their college football teams playing head to head with the Winter Classic. These are also the cities where the biggest US NHL teams come from, so you can see where I’m going. Not to mention that the Big Ten is looking at adding the likes of Missouri (St. Louis market), Maryland (Washington, DC market), Boston College, Syracuse (New York City market) and Pittsburgh who are all in large NHL markets. Despite all of this, the Winter Classic is still the highest rated NHL game in the States every year.
If Cox thinks the Winter Classic is a NHL showcase, especially one for the league in Canada, he is sorely mistaken. It is meant as a way (a cheap way for that matter) for NBC to combat losing the Gator Bowl. They get a big hockey showcase to show on New Year’s Day to go up against the big, mighty bowl games on the ESPN networks. For the day and time that it is shown, the ratings show that the game overachieves. In Canada we have our own hockey showcase this time of year, the World Juniors. And we have our own outside NHL showcase, the Heritage Classic. So, I don’t see what all the whining is about. The way it is now NBC is happy because they have their big showcase on New Year’s Day, CBC is happy because they have their’s the week after Hockey Day in Canada and Versus is happy because they get to carry an outside game. Of course the fans are also happy because there are two outside games, not one. It seems that Cox is the only one who isn’t happy actually.
We have many things to complain about when it comes to the NHL on NBC in Canada. Whether it be how they schedule playoff games on Saturday afternoons, taking away from CBC’s Saturday night broadcasts or their asinine scheduling of the Stanley Cup Final. This is not one NHL on NBC thing that is worth complaining about.