Tuesday, July 30, 2013

NBC Sports Network's Top 5 Steps To Becoming Legitimate

NBCSN has faced a lot of scrutiny lately for it's lack of viewership (besides big events such as the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Olympics) compared to ESPN and it's lack of sports rights compared to the brand new incoming rival, Fox Sports 1.

While NBCSN may not necessarily have a stake in the big sports which matter to majority of Americans, they have the tools to still be as successful as the other networks but haven't used those tools wisely. Here are my top 5 steps for what NBCSN needs to do to become legit.

5. UTILIZE THE RELATIONSHIPS WHICH ALREADY EXIST - Today, it was announced that NBCSN was launching two brand new shows in conjunction with their online partner Yahoo! Sports. This is a great way to attract new viewers who are frequent visitors of the number 1 sports website in the country and also helps NBCSN become a player in sports journalism by utilizing Yahoo's sports writers whenever they break big news.

Before today, I never understood why NBCSN didn't have "the Woj" on more often for example whenever he broke major offseason NBA news throughout the summer. Exposing Yahoo's writers on television would help NBCSN become a source to depend on for sports journalism because of Yahoo's proven status as a leader in breaking stories.

NBCSN also needs to take advantage of it's relationships with Universal Sports and it's RSNs and showcase Olympic sports which don't get much attention during non-Olympic years and showcase local sports analysis of teams which NBC's RSNs own the rights too.

For example, why isn't NBCSN broadcasting the Swimming World Championships which are happening right now? Why didn't NBCSN break in to regular programming during the height of the Dwight Howard saga and simulcast CSN Houston while having "the Woj" and a host in studio in Connecticut to break down and analyze anything that goes down?

Why didn't NBCSN break into programming during the height of the Aaron Hernandez saga and broadcast nationally, the coverage which CSN New England and/or NECN was showing?

Why didn't NBCSN broadcast CSN Washington's coverage of the Ravens Super Bowl celebration parade? These are all different ways to differentiate yourself and provide a different angle which ESPN couldn't provide because it doesn't have the same resources.

4. SUPERSERVE THE NICHE SPORTS WHICH YOU HAVE RIGHTS TOO - ESPN has done a great job of controlling the national sports conversation around sports which it owns. Why can't NBCSN do the same thing? NBCSN has Yahoo Sports, RSNs, a radio network and a national sports cablenet.

If NBCSN wants everyone to talk about the IndyCar race it's going to be showing because of an interesting angle it has which isn't common for example, then why not have someone write a story about it on Yahoo and put it on the front page, have a feature story about it on the "Today Show", send a memo to RSNs/radio stations to discuss it during their talk shows/sports news shows and even send a package story for NBC affiliates to show on their local newscasts.

You can also make it a big topic of conversation during the DP Show, which reaches a lot of radio affiliates and on The Crossover/PFT.

Fox News and MSNBC use this strategy to get political talking points out and set the agenda for the day by talking about the same topic on all their shows and ESPN never ceases to promote properties which might not have as much notoriety if it weren't broadcast on ESPN.

And it's not like NBC doesn't have experience in synergy within the company, they do it all the time whenever the Olympics are nearby.

3. SUPERSERVE THE FANS OF NICHE SPORTS WHICH YOU OWN RIGHTS TOO - A lot of fans of the sports NBCSN has rights too often complain that their sports don't get enough attention in the mainstream sports media aka ESPN. Why not use this opportunity and your brand new studios to launch a vast amount of different studio shows about soccer, motor sports and hockey?

There are many different kinds of shows dedicated to the NFL. Some with just a panel and highlights/analysis, some with just insiders, some which are just about fantasy, some with players only, some with just quarterbacks, some with a simple breakdown of plays that were key to winning etc. The sports TV complex has found a way to give fans of NFL football the same studio show format, but with different angles.

Why can't NBCSN do the same thing for sports with rabid fans who are hungry for innovative shows that bring new perspectives about their sport which currently aren't available on American TV? 

With the Speed channel going away soon, NBCSN has a great opportunity to become the #1 home for motor sports fans. When a major story breaks, fans would have a channel they could depend on. And unlike football fans, which are everywhere and take on different interests other than football; motor sports fans are very loyal to their sport just as soccer and hockey fans are as well. Loyal fans = viewers you can depend on.

Sort of like CNN's problem. They have viewers when big news happens but no loyal viewers because they have no loyalties unlike MSNBC and FOX who have loyalties to the left and the right respectively. Embrace the niche, NBCSN!

2. TAKE ON HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS - ESPN has the rights to literally everything college and pro. So what can NBCSN do instead of trying to copy ESPN and discuss sports which it doesn't have the rights too? Take on an area in sports which ESPN doesn't have as much of a stake as it wants too.....high school sports!!!

Start and sanction a national high school football and basketball championship operation similar to the NCAA which displays the best high school athletes in the U.S. who are the future of college and professional athletics.

Big followers of college sports who are in love with recruiting will want to tune in to see future stars who are potentially going to play for their favorite college and you are able to tap into a market which hasn't really been successfully tapped into. You get to create your own stars.

To keep the athletes sane, you could also run a community improvement program which all the athletes would be required to be a part of and you could give them strict rules in terms of how they conduct themselves in public. 

NBCSN would have the rights to the biggest "Friday Night Lights" games in the country, inside access to recruiting news, ability to tape practices, ability to start invitationals and skills competitions which fans would be interested in and they create another market for themselves which no one else has really invested in.

1. DON'T BE AFRAID TO BE RISKY - Broadcasting outdoor shows all day may be less of a risk ratings wise but they don't help NBCSN become a legit sports network and they don't give NBCSN the appropriate lead ins to the shows that they actually want people to watch such as the Crossover and PFT because they serve two different audiences.

Let your advertisers know that you want to compete and that in order to do that, you have to start from the bottom. In order to do that, you need to axe the current lineup of outdoors shows which are shown all day and put in live, original programming around the resources which you already have and have been mentioned above.

A built in audience will come eventually but it has to start from somewhere. 

I would also contend that NBCSN needs to continue building partnerships; specifically with some of it's rivals which aren't named ESPN or FOX. ESPN and FOX are in a league of it's own but they will be able to be challenged if NBCSN and a partner are able to step up and form an alliance.

It could be NBCSN and Turner who would be able to give Turner personalities like Charles Barkley their own TV shows as well as placement on NBCSN's studio shows to provide analysis.

Or it could be CBSSN, who NBCSN could convince to move Rome and Gottlieb's shows to the network so that they can be exposed to a bigger audience and CBS could be a main supplier/producer for the network, make most of the ad revenue from the shows, while ending the existence of it's own network which is not a player at all in sports TV. Something similar to Univision/Televisa used to do. (very unlikely)

Or it could be NFLN. NBCSN and NFLN could cross promote each others' shows and NFLN personalities could be featured as marquee guests on NBCSN shows and vice versa. NFLN could also broadcast NFL versions of NBCSN's shows, for example "DP Show's Best NFL Interviews of the Week" or "NFL Turning Point" or "The Crossover: NFL Edition" and NBCSN could also pick up it's own versions of "NFL Total Access" (similar to the versions of NFLTA which NFLN produced for MyNetworkTV) and it could broadcast reruns of NFLN's other programs and documentaries as well.

I would also be a fan of bringing back the old NFL.com/Live telecast which used to happen online and show live lookins of NFLN's Thursday Night game for fans who didn't have NFLN, and move that broadcast to NBCSN to supplement NFLN's game coverage. NFLN could even potentially broadcast from the site of future Olympic games and Stanley Cup championships to promote NBC's respective properties.

To convince a network like NFLN or MLBN to do an arrangement like this, Comcast could agree to place NFLN on basic cable around the country. An alliance/arrangement like this could work but it's up to NBCSN and Comcast to be willing risktakers and unconventional.


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