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MSNBC's Hockey Ratings Soar Over Ankle-High Bar

Have you noticed that NBC executives aren't out there standing on all the highest rooftops, holding up TV antennas, and trumpeting the fact that the hockey game between the U.S. and Canada on Sunday night gave its cable news channel, MSNBC, its second-biggest ratings night ever?

Why, after these glowing numbers came out Monday, you'd think you wouldn't be able to shut the generally insufferable PR-types up.

I mean before this news, we had been hearing how wonderfully things were going for the Peacock Network during these Games. And this after they sandbagged us beforehand, saying they expected to take advertising losses soaring into the hundreds of millions while bringing the Games to your home.

Then again, I suppose after the recent drubbing the network took for its mishandling of the late-night fiasco with talkers Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno, it was probably shrewd to lower any and all expectations where the Olympics and ratings were concerned.

But now that these big-time numbers have come out for MSNBC, where are the network's shouters? Maybe they are just being humble, and taking a more dignified approach to this welcome success.

Or maybe somebody should check the basement, not any rooftops, because it's crystal clear to me that these people don't know what the hell they are doing.

They certainly had absolutely no idea what they had in the U.S.-Canada hockey gem Sunday night.

You say I'm being too tough here?

Look, if NBC had the slightest clue the hockey game would be such a ratings hit, why in the heck did it broadcast it on a channel that goes out to over 20 million FEWER viewers than its home network? And why put it on a cable channel that is not available in high definition to many millions more who do have MSNBC?

Don't laugh about this last one, I have heard from a few angry folks who went the high-def route just for hockey's sake. They, and thousands of other online chatterers, are fuming at NBC.

Finally, why in the name of common sense, for just one night, didn't NBC relegate the taped (another sore subject here) coverage of the skiing, and bobsledding, and the live coverage of the ice dancing to MSNBC?

Instead of reacting to the discernible buzz the U.S.-Canada hockey game was generating, NBC simply held fast to a tired, old formula that at best has gotten mixed viewing results over past Olympic Games. Results, by the way, that were at least partly responsible for their weird admission that they expected to lose those hundreds of millions on these Games.

And you think the government sets its bar for success at the ankles ...?

By not having the wisdom, but mostly the news sense, to capitalize on this big event, and in so doing icing out many potential viewers, NBC will never know what kind of ratings the hockey game would have drawn on its flagship channel.

Could be that given their sorry ratings run over the past couple of years, NBC thought it best to play it safe, rather than be sorry.

Again, lower those expectations whenever possible ...

Before dashing away from this rant, check out this neat little story I just came across on MSNBC's very own web site. It was written before the Games started, and updated a few days into the competition.

The headline blares, "NBC faces uphill battle to get Olympic viewers."

The subhead to the story is a real beauty, though: "Games have tough programming competition, few captivating story lines."

Few captivating story lines, eh?

Looks to me like the network is intent on following the losing script it wrote for itself before the Games began -- no matter what kind of news breaks in the meantime.

So now do you think I am being too tough on 'em?

Didn't think so, and congratulations, you are most likely more qualified to run the place than whoever it is that's in charge over there.

(Got a tip, a gripe, or some kudos? Send 'em along.)