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Volume 21 No. 2
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‘Honor the game’: NBC Sports happy to play it straight for Stanley Cup Final coverage

As the opening of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday draws near, NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood is both excited and confident.

“We’ll do well because of our approach to the game,” said Flood, who will oversee the Cup coverage, which calls for Games 1 and 2 on NBC (along with Games 5 through 7, if necessary), with NBC Sports Network carrying Games 3 and 4. “We’re not interested in a lot of bells and whistles. We honor the game.”

NBC’s Stanley Cup ratings have fared well on its networks this year. NBC Sports Network and CNBC had averaged a 0.5 rating/846,000 viewers through 61 games. That’s a flat rating but a 5 percent viewership gain from last year. On NBC, playoff games were averaging a 1.4 rating through 12 games, up from a 1.2 average across eight games in 2011.

Both the NHL and NBC were optimistic for a Stanley Cup Final that will feature the Los Angeles Kings against a team from the New York market, either New Jersey or the New York Rangers.

“With NBC, we’re seeing the realization of the full potential of the Stanley Cup playoffs,” said NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins. “Every game has been on one of the NBC networks. They’ve done a terrific job of telling the story of the teams and the players.”

For the Final, NBC’s pregame and postgame shows will originate from the site of the games. “NHL Live” will air a half-hour before the start of each game — all start at 8 p.m. ET — on NBC Sports Network. When NBC’s game coverage is over, the “Bud Light Post Game Report” will air immediately on NBC Sports Network.

On the marketing side, the “Every Game. Every Night. Because It’s The Cup.” campaign will continue to run across NBCUniversal outlets. Paid media will remain in place until the Cup is won. So will the collaborative marketing efforts with the league for media integration and messaging across all channels, from in-arena to on-air.

TV ad inventory for the Final is sold out. Since NBC, like most networks, sells only for the first five games of a final series, new inventory would open up for a potential sixth or seventh game.

NBC has sold virtual advertising for the Final in the past but is not doing so this year, satisfied with having key sponsors on the dasherboards.

In a deal signed last July, NBC assumed ad sales responsibilities for NHL broadcasts on its networks along with the NHL’s TV and digital properties.

“The NBC deal has created depth and scale for the league, and during the playoffs, everyone knows which network has all the games,” said John Tatum, CEO of Dallas-based Genesco Sports Enterprises, which facilitates deals between sponsors and leagues. “Sponsors recognize the buzz and want to be part of it.”

There is also the synergy between league and network. With Jay Leno in Los Angeles and Jimmy Fallon in New York, do not be surprised if NBC’s late night hosts jump on the NHL bandwagon.