Red Sox Chick/Toeing the Rubber

Because you always need a backup plan

If I ran NESN

nesntd

I tend to be very critical of NESN (so much so that I once was contacted via email by one of the producers over there because of something I wrote about here).  Twitter has become a wonderful outlet for me to get my jabs in (especially since they come to me while I’m watching NESN…I feel the need to sometimes get them out before I forget them) and given how much I’ve written about them over the years it seems to me that folks might get the idea that I don’t like NESN.  That isn’t the case.  Well, it kind of isn’t the case.  The thing is, I want to like NESN.  I want NESN to be the channel always on my television.  Problem is, aside from Red Sox baseball (or Bruins hockey), there is nothing appealing about NESN.  There is nothing NESN shows, outside the game, that makes me think “I should check the schedule, maybe I’ll want to watch or DVR something on NESN tonight”.

So because they didn’t ask, I decided to share with you what programming would be like if I were head of programming at NESN.  (Fair warning:  This is a long one!)

Bring back Sports Desk – Before they assaulted us with NESN Daily I had been wondering why I had taken to shutting the show off halfway through when I hadn’t done that early on in my Sports Desk viewing.  Then it hit me:  Sports Desk used to only be 15 minutes long.  My first suggestion for NESN?  Give NESN Daily a swift yet painful death and bring back the 15-minute version of Sports Desk.  You know what real sports fans want?  Sports scores and highlights.  You can touch on every local sports team, and even sometimes include youth, high school and college teams, in 15 minutes.  Sports Desk had become obsessed with trying to be Sports Center and it wasn’t (and didn’t need to be).  We don’t need visits by Mike Adams or Akrobatic, we need to know who won the games and what great plays were made doing it.  It’s as simple as that.  Keep the scrolling ticker at the bottom of the screen so we can see the other scores (and include Boston sports team scores in the ticker) and just keep it simple.  Run this on a loop for two hours each morning from, say, 6-8, while folks are getting ready for work or school and be done with it.

*Shorten Red Sox/Bruins Pre and Post Game Shows – I don’t want you to get rid of these, I just want you to make them shorter.  Anything over a half an hour is overkill.  Red Sox nor Bruins fans really care what the likes of Nick Cafardo or Peter Abraham or anyone at the Globe has to say on a pregame show when we can visit the Globe site or pick up the newspaper any time we want.  Bringing in “Insiders” doesn’t add anything to the show.  I can’t believe I’m about to write this next line but here you go:  You already have Heidi Watney, use her.  She gets access to all the players, coaches, front office folks and managers…that’s all we need.  (Ditto for Naoko Funayama who, given her extensive knowledge of sports, might be able to give Watney some pointers on covering the game.)  The post-game need only recap what happened in the game, give us some post-game interviews and let us know what happened around the league that night.  None of that should take an hour or more, 30 minutes should cover it.  Having local reporters on the broadcast (especially given they only come from one of the local papers that cover the Sox) adds nothing to it.  When Peter Abraham is blogging and tweeting about how “soft” Jacoby is and I turn on NESN to see him waxing sympathetic over Ellsbury’s plight, he and NESN lose credibility.  Use your studio hosts and analysts, Don, Jerry and Heidi and get rid of the excess.  You wouldn’t have to use hours of valuable programming time showing us infomercials if you didn’t have to pay a half a dozen extra people to do the work you already employ other people to do.  Which brings me to my next suggestion:

Kill the “Paid Programming” – Kill it dead.  As I sit here this morning watching last night’s game whittled down to one hour I wonder why they can’t show the two-hour version of the game like they do at midnight.  Then I check the schedule and see it’s because they need to show us three hours of “Paid Programming” before they show us an hour of NESN Daily reruns.  We then get another three-hour block of infomercials from 2am (when the midnight, two-hour version of the last game ends) to 5am (when NESN Daily starts up for three hours).  Six hours of commercials in a 24-hour period.  It’s ridiculous.  If you want your network to be something people want to watch you need to not use 1/4 of your programming time showing crap.

Replay the entire baseball/hockey game – We’ve established you have six hours of programming to fool around with…is there a reason we have to watch such heavily edited replays?  You can throw in repeats of Sports Desk or any other show I’m going to suggest to fill the odd time between when a game ends and the top of the hour if you need your programming to be neat.  NESN’s replays of the games (especially the baseball games) usually edits out a lot of good stuff just to fit it all into a 60 or 120 minute block.  The Red Sox and the Bruins are why people watch your network, NESN, so you really can’t show too much of them.

* Get rid of any programming not related to the sports you coverDirty Water TV, World Tennis with Harry Cicma, Golf Destination, 3 Wide Life, Cruisin’ New England, On the Hook, Global Fight League, Yard Work and even Charlie Moore Outdoors (sorry Charlie) – these are not ratings grabbers.  Your network is about hockey and baseball, show us hockey and baseball.

Yankeeography is more than just a joke – Red Sox and Bruins fans love their teams as much as Yankees fans love theirs.  Let’s not get all stupid and call it Bruinsography, but biography shows on our favorite players and our favorite teams (how many times will people want to watch a hour on the 1967 Red Sox or a biography on Tony Conigliaro?) would be a huge success.  There is so much you could cover and, again, you have the access to do it.  How is it possible that you don’t have a show like this on the air right now?  THIS is a show you could the repeats of to fill the “Paid Programming” time with and people would actually tune in to see it.

Classic Games – Why wait until the off-season to show us classic Bruins or Red Sox games?  Heck, they don’t even have to be games where something amazing happened,  just older games where the teams won.  Many is the time I wish I could watch Pedro Martinez pitch again or see a Bruins game with Bobby Orr.  Instead of repeating Sports Desk (or, in the real world right now, NESN Daily) give the viewers something that will compel them to keep your network on their television.

Trivia – People like trivia shows.  It gives them the opportunity to look smart or the chance to actually learn something.  Either way, if you do it right, folks will tune in.  Doing it right does not involve using a host who gives the country a reason to hate people from Boston (NESN has a penchant for encouraging the annoying stereotypes of the Boston sports fan) nor does it involve production values that make the local high school’s version of The Sound of Music look ready for Broadway.  I think both Pocket Money and The Batter’s Box have tremendous potential but right now they are painful to watch.  Also, hiding The Batter’s Box and shoving Pocket Money down our throats with endless commercials are two terrible ways to get folks to watch.  Most people I asked didn’t know the former even existed and avoid the latter because the host is so obnoxious in the commercials.  You know who many folks like and don’t move to turn off the channel when he’s on?  Jimmy Dunn.  The guy needs to do more than just those commercials.  (And, no, I have no connection to Dunn.  Don’t even know him.  I just know, aside from the God-awful Heidi Watney commercial, his Olympia Sports commercials are one of the most amusing things on NESN.)

Never, ever, ever again subject us to Sox Appeal or NESN’s Comedy All-Stars – There’s nothing else I need to add here.

Athlete’s Wives – This is a subject that fascinates me and not because I ever wanted to BE an athlete’s wife.  I didn’t.  But I’m intrigued by the mindset of women who knowingly (or in some cases when they meet at very young ages, unknowingly) end up the wife of an athlete.  Interviews on how they deal with the daily grind while their husbands are away, how they handle groupies, how they feel about the sport and how they help their husbands get through losses and slumps would make for good television.

Films about baseball or hockeyA Player to be Named Later has become one of the most talked-about, non-game related shows you’ve given us this year.  True, we have a connection because Marco Scutaro and his wife are heavily featured but it’s a fascinating piece even if you don’t have a connection to any of the players highlighted.  While I’m on the subject:

Highlight the Minor Leagues more – We want to know who the kids are coming up.  Show us more than a handful of the games a season.  Give us spotlights covering the hot prospects.  Interviews about what it’s like to come up through the Red Sox organization would be informative and entertaining.

Show us the players off the field/ice – NESN already has a show coming in September called After the Game (conceived, I recently discovered, by John Henry’s wife, Linda Pizzuti) that they are advertising as a kind of MTV Cribs-like show.  Part of me is intrigued, but a larger part of me doesn’t know how some of the fan base that already complains about how overpaid and spoiled athletes are will react to showing us EXACTLY how over-paid and spoiled these athletes are.  I don’t think we need to see how lavish their lives are but I’d like to see how they are with their families and the fans.  You could create an entire show around following a different player each week on a day in their life without rubbing it in the faces of the fans about how much more amazing their lives are than ours.

NESN has so much potential and it’s being wasted. The MLB Network has taken a huge chunk of their viewership, I’m sure, but they can get some of that back if they just get a little creative and don’t fill the time between Red Sox and Bruins games with the vapidness that makes people run for their remote controls.  (And these are only some ideas…I have more, NESN, I have more!)

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August 23, 2010 - Posted by | 2010 |

10 Comments »

  1. I LOVE this post. I wish you did have that job (I say that even though we both know how wretched that job probably is) because at least you could make some positive changes. If they need so desperately to make money that they will grasp at all those bad programming ideas, they might as well do some things people actually want to see.

    It would never happen but I would like to know more about the fabled farm system. I have some specific areas of interest. Not yanking kids out of school too early and chewing up their lives just because they have talent is a great step forward but I wonder if they are also given some sort of formal program of information and training about media image, including the art of the interview, security, publicity, and service work–all of which seem likely, judging from what we see of the players. I also wonder about their access and encouragement to learn about financial planning, personal growth including managing emotions and expectations, planning for life after the game. I think such lessons must be learned before they start making the big money because it will be too late to learn them then. I wonder how much investment the system makes in these things in order be sure the game is not responsible for wrecking their lives and, instead, possibly gives them a better shot at profiting from the experience.

    I know this kind of thing can seem ridiculous in view of the fortunes they are paid as successful athletes but we all know, I think, that it takes more than money and talent to be happy and successful in life. Baseball players, especially, do not earn all that much unless and until they have broken through the minimum in a big way. I’d like it a lot if the guys who make this sport such a joy to behold are also not going to crash and burn when we’re finished watching them because we locked them in an artificial and temporary environment during their best learning years and didn’t prepare them for the next step.

    Someone must already counsel them about media interviews because they all seem to avoid the worst pitfalls fairly early in their major league time. They uniformly say very little of substance to the press although their interviews vary from the thoughtful and seemingly generous style of Francona to the terse, lit fuse style of Beckett, both of which I love to watch.

    Francona is spellbinding because he seems to consider even the most obvious and ridiculous question with deeply serious, meticulous reasoning and to answer with scrupulous detail as if the questioner had actually plumbed the depths of managerial waters with that query but, in the end, he has said exactly nothing we didn’t already know. Beckett, of course, we watch for the sparks and zingers.

    Thank you again for this blog. If NESN is smart, they’ll get in touch with you and in a good way.

    Comment by Anita | August 23, 2010 | Reply

  2. I am in 100% agreement with you on this! Once baseball season ends, I have very little reason to ever turn on NESN – not a hockey fan! But if they offered some interesting programming in the off-season – hey, how about a visit to API or showing the young guys in the Mexican/Caribbean leagues

    Comment by Beth | August 23, 2010 | Reply

  3. I agree with most of this personally, but to play devil’s advocate…

    Part of the problem is that NESN’s market is made up of the folks who do the wave at the games, not us, the truly crazed fans. Think of all the folks who don’t recognize the lower guys in the bullpen–you think they really care about the farm teams? Ditto the repeats and paid programming–most normal folks aren’t watching and sometimes I think we’re lucky to get repeats at all!

    In comparing to YES–YES has a huge advantage in the number of folks who pay for the channel, even if NESN beats them in percentage actually watching. They get more money. The reason NESN does shows like Sox Appeal and Charlie Moore is that they are cheap. Perhaps YOU don’t like those sports, but I think it’s important for a Regional Sports Network not to be pigeonholed into two sports.

    I totally agree that Batter’s Box needs a few more dollars and a lot more promotion–and maybe even some shows with a wider variety of sports. People are suckers for quiz shows.

    I would love weekly half-hours featuring individual Sox players, but I really, really, really DO NOT want their wives, families, or homes involved. Boston’s tough enough on these folks without an express or implied request to give up any more privacy, IMO.

    Comment by KellyO | August 23, 2010 | Reply

  4. Maybe NESN is looking for a new Program Manager? I know someone that needs a job 🙂
    Really good blog!!

    Comment by noni | August 24, 2010 | Reply

  5. i agree with most, disagree slightly with some, but would like to say you dont go far enough on one:

    Highlight the Minor Leagues more

    hell with highlights. give us full games! or edited games. instead of paid programming, or showing the whole red sox game over again…give me more minors. doesnt have to be live. i think i would PAY for NESN if they did this

    Comment by josh blue | August 24, 2010 | Reply

  6. and frankly, we get more coverage of the minors from kelly than we do from NESN

    Comment by josh blue | August 24, 2010 | Reply

  7. Athlete’s Wives?

    Didn’t NESN employ Michele Damon?

    Okay, I know it was aimed at different topics, but heading down this path, is to me, like reality TV.

    One other item (if I overlooked it in your article, forgive me), but if you ran NESN, you would never, ever, EVER, allow any commercial to interfere with the on air broadcast of a game. It makes me completely crazy coming back to the game between innings and seeing the count at 0-1, or worse.

    Lastly, ask NESN for a check. You just gave them thousands in market research for free.

    Comment by Tru | August 24, 2010 | Reply

    • My reasoning behind the athlete’s wives is to show the fans they aren’t stepford wives or inanimate objects. Making them more “real” for folks might take some of the heat off of them. 🙂 (I live in a dream world, I know.)

      One of the things I didn’t write about but have talked about with others is showing what happens on the field before the game begins. Last night we got the National Anthem, the first pitch and the kids yelling “Play Ball!”. Of course, we then got Ernie Boch Jr for five minutes taking the camera away from the game so we could hear about his female football team. Not really what folks watching a baseball game care about, NESN. Small steps, I guess.

      Comment by Cyn | August 24, 2010 | Reply

  8. I understand where you’re coming from. But you’re seeking programming that is based, rooted in real life, complete with issues and challenges. Aside from having careers of their own, or simply opting to raise children, many of the player’s wives have problems and obstacles while their husbands immerse themselves into the ‘season’.

    But is this what ad people like and would pay for to hawk their wares?

    You said “Ernie Boch Jr”.

    He got a bizarro plug for his perfect season, championship female football team. I thought, what the hell is that?!?!? But I bet you that NESN is more attracted to the reality TV slant than they would be to serious programming that aligns with your idea. Sign up Ernie Jr.

    No, I’m not coming on down…

    Ernie Jr scares me

    Comment by Tru | August 24, 2010 | Reply

  9. All excellent ideas! Agreed 100%!

    Comment by Stephen | August 24, 2010 | Reply


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