Following the A's home opener (not the one that took place over a week ago in Japan), I caught something titled "The Tokyo Experience" on my program guide and made sure to add it to my DVR. Below is a sneak peek of the 30 minute feature , produced by Comcast's Bay Area sports regional channel...
Up until this program, the A's boondoggle to Japan was something that significantly irked me as the A's have to be the first MLB team in decades not to have their season opener televised live to their home market. A pair of "home" games against Ichiro that take place in the middle of the night and come before a final exhibition series against the Giants. Maybe next year the NFL can mix in preseason games into the 16 game schedule in an effort to one up MLB's creative scheduling.
"The Tokyo Experience" was nothing special as it didn't have some of the high end production value and creative TLC as you would get on HBO or ESPN, but it certainly was interesting. Watching players and their families partake in things like visiting the Tsunami destruction, utilizing the bustling public transit system, taking sake bombs, trying sushi for the first time, singing karoake with locals, visiting a US military base, and having clinics with local kids was well documented and entertaining to watch. Kudos to CSN Bay Area for producing the show as it gave me a devil's advocate view of the Japan trip... though l think still think it was stupid.
However at a high level, you have to wonder just when that magical synergy is going to kick in for Comcast and NBC sports. On paper it's a sports juggernaut. NBC, NBC Sports Network, the Comcast sports regional channels, the NBC local affiliates, etc, etc...
In the Bay Area it's in full effect where NBC and NBC Sports Network cover the NHL nationally and the Sharks play locally on Comcast Sports Bay Area along with the A's, Warriors, and Giants. The Giants also play baseball games on the local NBC affiliate as well.
The idea as I understood it, was at a certain point the local groups like the NBC affiliate and the Comcast Sports Regional would share some ability to collaborate on content development, content distribution, marketing, sponsorships, etc. with the national NBC sports entities.
With this in mind you have to wonder what "The Tokyo Experience" could have been. NBC Sports Network is starving for fresh unique content, the local NBC affiliate airs a lot of syndicated riff raff, and I don't know if CSN Bay Area will air the program ever again.
Just how much mileage could you have gotten from this concept of documenting a professional team abroad if the full arsenal of marketing, production, and distribution were all aligned between the groups?
Also keep in mind that Comcast owns a percentage of MLB network and just how poorly received this trip was for MLB. Perhaps a partnership to really make an ambitious multi hour special about the trip for both teams could have been brokered involving MLB Network to better "sell" the trip to fans that were left shaking their heads. That's probably too much to ask of MLB, whose stodgy way of thinking at last check in was driving their few younger fans crazy with asinine blackout rules and an even more asinine online video strategy.
I am sure those reading this who are industry insiders will react by thinking "this never will happen," but in my mind how the hell is anyone really going to challenge ESPN without leveraging synergy between local sports coverage and the national umbrella above it.
I once told a friend of mine of how the NBC and Comcast merger could give birth to an ESPN competitor to which he laughed off that it would never happen. He'd never watch another sports channel more than ESPN.
That's when I pointed out that by watching every Sharks, Warriors, and Giants game every week... he already was.
NBC Sports Network is having a tough go of it and needs to show some momentum over the summer when the Olympics rolls through. If they are ever going to close the gap, let alone really compete with ESPN, at some point the grassroots local coverage of the affiliates and regionals need to start actually being part of that fight and not relegated to just "being in the portfolio."