NBC not biased by final pairing

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:12 AM ET

There should have been more than a few people worried at the NBC Sports offices a few weeks ago at the prospect of an all-Canadian NLL final.

No one in the U.S. would warm up to a Champion's Cup game featuring two Canadian-based teams built on foundations of Canuck players.

Fortunately for NBC, the Calgary Roughnecks lost in the semifinal to Arizona, which travels to Toronto tomorrow for the big game.

However, the American network didn't care either way who it showed. It was confident the title contest would play well to its 160 million possible viewers, according to NBC Sports v.p. of communications and marketing Mike McCarley.

"The main thing is to have a great game, an exciting contest and be able to present it in a way the viewers will understand," he said.

"The NBC Sports philosophy is storytelling. The best example is the Olympics and how we're able to make people care about sports they don't usually care about. It's the same philosophy we have with all of our sports. A lot of that onus falls on our producers and announcers. It's a matter of painting word pictures during the game. They have to communicate it in a way where casual fans can understand."

So the pressure is on play-by-play voice Mike (Doc) Emrick and Canadian colourman Brian Shanahan to sell the action, which should be much easier the second time around.

Emrick, who normally does NHL, teams with Shanahan again after the duo did the NLL all-star game at the Saddledome in February. And Emrick and Shanahan pulled out all the best stories they could find from the all-stars.

Shanahan, who's done lacrosse for seven years, admits being a little nervous preparing for the possibly huge NBC audience but, with all his league knowledge, can talk about almost anything.

"Doing so many games in Canada, you don't want to tell the same story about Jim Veltman, Colin Doyle or Tracey Kelusky," Shanahan said.

"When you have a new audience, you're not worried about saying what you said three years ago. The die-hard Canadian audience would also being forgiving to hear the same things because we want to sell the game to a bigger audience. There might be less pressure rather than more."

Because of NBC's involvement, the NLL moved the game time from prime time to the afternoon (1:30 p.m.). But compared with the all-star game, the Champion's Cup is much more a normal NLL game. The network has set out a two-and-half-hour time block and can run over by a few extra minutes, compared with the tight, two-hour slot for the all-star game.

Just as they did for the all-star tilt, the NLL has purchased the time from NBC in the hopes that decent ratings will lead to a future U.S. deal.

NBC might be interested if ratings are better than the 0.8 share from the all-star contest.

"We'll take a look at it and see how it does, then get back to the table and see what else it could do," McCarley. "It's a matter of looking and seeing what we did this year."

The Score is picking up the NBC feed and, unlike the Americans, the Canadian network was rooting for a Calgary-Toronto final, said Anthony Cicione, director of programming and production.

"It would have been great from a fan standpoint and for the ratings," he said. "They've been pushing pretty hard to get the league on in the States. They've been working on Fox and some of the local stations too. Where it does bother us is NBC spills into Canada. It takes a bit of our audience."


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