Sports fans, advertisers, on air talent, pro leagues, and countless others are united in the hopes that Comcast can lift NBC Sports Network to compete in the space ESPN operates in. The recently re-branded channel has a long way to go to even catch ESPN2. But with the Olympics, NHL playoffs, MLS season, NBC's promotion, Comcast regional channels, NBCsports.com, and of course God's gift to Twitter Darren Rovell, there is some hope that NBCSN will begin closing the gap.
The easiest fix is more high quality live sports. In the next couple of years, Comcast will have the opportunity to make a run at television rights for the depleted Big East, MLB, and the NBA with NBC Sports Network being the lynchpin of those discussions. I'd set the over/under on how many of the packages they'll end up bringing home at 1.5 as MLB and NBA are packages that will likely be split between multiple partners.
But those rights aren't up for grabs tomorrow. The biggest issue dragging down momentum right now is meager ratings thus far under the new format, even down at times from its predecessor Versus. In spite of Bob Costas' big name, Costas Tonight ranked behind a 2 AM TV Guide infomercial last week.
Luckily for NBC, I'm here to inject some some fresh prespective. While NBC may not be panicking over ratings just yet in the infancy of the network, they can find both ratings success and high quality shows in seeking groundbreaking original programming. Documentary style shows have done great things for ESPN, HBO, and Big Ten Network just to name a few. NBC would be wise to have more shows in development soon if they want to capitalize on the elevated surge of viewers that will be out in force for the NHL Playoffs and Olympics. Here are 6 ideas NBC should greenlight (and pay me a small fee for being a no show producer)...
The Making Of
Elevator Pitch: Inside Story meets DVD on TV
What and Why:
A couple weeks back, I had a friend who ran dreadfully late and with slim pickings on television to hold me over, I ended up on Bio channel's Inside Story on the making of Ferris Bueller. I wasn't expecting much, but I was amazed by all the interesting things I picked up about the classic film. Below is a 30 second teaser of the program...
I now know interesting nuggets of info like Ferris actually had a younger brother and sister who were both cut from the film entirely. Imagine you're those former kid actors, that's a bad beat. Countless other crazy facts such as Mr. Bueller spent some of his day at a strip club (edited out) and did a radio interview which he says he was selected to go to space (edited out becaue of the Challenger explosion) were some of the many tidbits offered up during the show.
At one point last week, the movie Point Break was NBCSN's highest rated program of the day. Given the countless sports movie classics with built-in audiences, it seems like a slam dunk to tape interviews with all the principle figures to dig up great inside stories about the financing, production, post production, and reception on some of our most favorite sports movies.
While this isn't the most sexy idea, I'd be shocked if people wouldn't be drawn to getting the skinny on what went on behind the scenes of White Men Can't Jump and Major League.
Future Of The Franchise
Elevator Pitch: Hard Knocks meets Moneyball
What and Why:
Documenting one or more franchise's preparation for the NFL draft and the work in the months after. Most likely this is something NBCSN could do in conjunction with NFL Films.
I've long enjoyed the front office aspect of Hard Knocks over the years. I distinctly recall the extension negotiations for Larry Johnson and Darrell Revis, Terry Glenn getting cut, and Andre Brown and Dwayne Bowe's holdouts. I find the inner workings fascinating and there is a feverish amount of interest in the draft every year. There is no way a program like this could be lost in the shuffle.
Whether you feature 3 teams spanning 6 episodes or just feature one team a week, there is certainly an appetite for this type of content.
Imagine the possibilities - building the big board, reviewing college game films, the combine, interviewing players, dealing with agents, pre draft conversations about trading up or down, pro days, the actual draft, cutting players to get under the cap, cutting/adding players based around who you drafted, and the actual signings of the players. This would make for great television.
No Place Like Home
Elevator Pitch: How It's Made meets Cribs meets Three Sheets
What and Why:
Each episode (preferably 1 hour), would run through 2-3 different stadiums or arenas covering how that facility came to be, unique designs and features, history of the building, etc. with a nice Cribs like tour. Finally, the show closes with some gameday atmosphere/debauchery to give a feel for the unique experience of that particular facility and tailgating scene.
The beauty is you can suck in any team's fans who would be featured. If you set up some component of voting in which stadiums/arenas are ranked in certain categories, you're sure to get a lot of inbound traffic to your website as fans love nothing more than stuffing the ballot box when it comes to anything competitive for their favorite team.
There is a lot of interesting stuff a casual fan could glean from a program like this. How much did construction cost? Who designed the stadium? Who has the cheapest beers?
Game Of The Year
Elevator Pitch: 24/7 Meets Game Of Honor
What and Why: You could probably do this with just one team, but it works a lot better with two. The format is already proven successful on HBO, NFL Films, and recently Showtime. The format is simple - follow two teams all access leading up to their rivalry game as well as the immediate aftermath.
This probably works best for college rivalries, but hopefully you could loop in some pro rivalries and have your pick of the litter for big high school games of signficance.
This concept has a lot more red tape and higher production costs but is essentially the most sure thing of anything proposed. Who wouldn't want to watch what goes on behind the scenes of any bitter rivarly?Shows From Elsewhere
Elevator Pitch: Some good shows don't get promoted or extended elsewhere. This is where you come in.
What and Why: Friday Night Lights started on NBC but ended up on DirecTV. ESPN really doesn't show much love to Hey Rookie and NFL Films Presents. The Contender fizzled out on NBC, Pros vs. Joes seems to be lost in the shuffle, and I'll admit that I miss Two-A-Days.
There are shows out there that don't fit on other networks, but given the slim pickings NBC has right now, there are some good fits for shows to settle down and potentially thrive.
All Eyes On Me
Elevator Pitch: True Life meets He Got Game
What and Why: The show picks 3-4 top 50 recruits for football (and later basketball) and follows them as they work their way to a decision on where to go to college. Fans of pro sports might tune this out, but college recruiting is a big business and access to top tier recruits who have a wide spectrum of schools they are looking at could be a ratings blockbuster.
To some degree, this has already been done in small doses but getting more insight into the recruiting process, the media glare, the selling tactics, and those fun recruiting visits would certainly make for good television. The best part is you could do the announcements of featured players live which would really pump ratings.
NBC was smart in rolling out Turning Point and the network has been slowly building a higher quality programming portfolio. NBC is going to want to attract and retain viewers in the coming year to begin their push to reach their long term goals. It will be interesting to see what shakes out as busy season looms in the not so distant future.