Monday, March 17, 2008

Making MSG Relevant

MSG Network used to be the biggest, best regional sports network in America. Then they lost the Yankees to YES. Then they let the staff and equipment get old and outdated. In recent years they have attempted to clean up their image and, frankly, I don't think they have done a very good job. The Rangers and Knicks broadcasts are still well done, as is Mike Quick's High School Weekly ... it's just everything else that needs work.

Why does the network insist on regurgitating shows, while not replaying games? The Rangers play Pittsburgh on Tuesday - why not air some classic games between the two teams during the day and a Rangers in 60 of their last match-up? Instead there is a four hour high school basketball game of the week - something more appropriate for a day with the Knicks. I have tons of friends who tune in to the NHL Network just to watch classic games, so let's revisit Patrick Division matchups to add historical context to the rivalries. How many people in the Garden who yell Potvin Sucks have actually seen his hit on Ulf Nilsson? Tailoring the schedule towards key events helps draw viewers in and keep them longer. But no, we'll get more prepackaged filler like Fran's The Game 365 or that mediocre retrospective that was overhyped and underproduced: The 50 Greatest Moments at Madison Square Garden.

Enough with Fran Healy! This guy is 100 years old and his all-too-friendly interviewing style rarely gets to the heart of whichever subject he is discussing. Plus it sounds like he is drunk half of the time, which is less endearing than one would think. On the same token, why in the world does Boomer Esiason talk about anything outside of football?? He has no clue!

And now for my biggest annoyance with MSG Network: They took away Sportsdesk two years back and replaced it with MSG, NY - which they just expanded to a full hour seven days a week. I do not know a single person who actually watches this show, outside of the few minutes immediately following a Rangers game. And the only reason people watch that is because their talk-backs and locker room interviews are the closest thing to a post-game show. But no one sticks with it, as the show quickly changes the subject to music and entertainment. Frankly, MSG, NY blows and making it longer doesn't make it better.

Here is how it can be better:
*First off, split it apart. Enough with this attempt to combine sports with entertainment - it doesn't work. I am a Ranger fan and could care less about some crappy band that is playing at the Beacon Theater. I am a huge fan of what Eddie Trunk has done - the guy is a heavy metal journalism icon - but when I am looking for info on the Rangers, seeing him makes me want to puke. Make one show about the Rangers and the Knicks, and another about whatever show is rolling through the WAMU Theater or Radio City.

*Get a New Yorker to anchor the sports. Jason Horowitz, Jonathan Coachman and Scott Lasky are plastic television personalities who wish they were anchoring SportsCenter. Actually having someone with a New York accent, who is authentic in demeanor, would go miles towards making people care. If the anchor cares, the audience cares - that is why hockey highlights on ESPN sound so much better when done by huge Ranger fan Linda Cohn than by John Anderson, who believes hockey is a joke.

*Rangers On Demand (the online video service on the Rangers homepage) does a great job at getting daily locker room interviews and practice video. That service is basically a kid with a camera and a lap top. Why can't a network do the same and make it into a daily show? Don't give me a 15 clip of practice and 30 second quote at the top of MSG, NY; get in-depth information - talk to the trainers, equipment guys, beat writers ... passionate fans will eat it up and it will even help draw new fans. Inside the Rangers does a decent job, but they are just a half hour that doesn't even seem to be weekly. I know costs are high in a union shop like MSG, but if you aren't willing to pay them, why bother going on-air at all? If you put money in, you get money out. Hockey Night In New York has been an interesting experiment but it could be a lot more.

*Everyone got a kick out of the piece on Strudwick, Staal and Hollweg playing Rock Band because it was fun and showed the personalities of the guys we love to watch on the ice. Why not do more things of that ilk? Let's get the Euros drinking beers while watching soccer. Let's send Sean Avery and Ron Duguay clothes shopping and clubbing. Go apartment hunting with Brandon Dubinsky and Nigel Dawes. Sit down Chris Drury and Brian Leetch as they watch BU play BC in college hockey - or take them to Yankee Stadium for a game. I believe Shanny is part-owner of a lacrosse team and used to play - cross promote the Titans while showing off the old man's dexterity. These guys have personalities, let's see them.

*Why do we rarely get to see the Hartford Wolf Pack? The Garden owns the team and their arena, at the least they should show highlights of every game. And for that matter, Canadian television airs highlights of junior games so why don't we get regular updates on the Ranger prospects?

I am sure I can think of more things but its 4 a.m. and I need to crash. All of the ideas I riffed on about the Blueshirts pretty much work for Isaih's disasterpiece of a basketball franchise. The point is that we have a network that has two main cornerstones - the Knicks and the Rangers. Its time to start accepting that and catering to it, lest it lose more viewers than it already has.


Loser Domi said...

you got linkage from the NHL closer on deadspin! Congrats!

Brother P said...

This evenings game is a must win.