Saturday, January 27, 2007

Fox Trax Meet Rail Cam...

Joe Starkley, from the Tribune Review, ripped into the NHL's latest attempt to make the game more watchable... the Rail Cam. Have you seen this? It's bad. Not as bad as the Fox Trax tail that followed the puck around the ice. But bad.

Here are a couple of comments from his article:

The action shown through the Rail Cam was enough to make you seasick. The thing couldn't follow players through their turns, either, and was so close to the action that it eliminated any semblance of context.

Even when the Rail Cam was nowhere to be found, the thick black rail on the top of the glass gave the broadcast a split-screen effect.

Really, though, there isn't much good to report when it comes to the NHL on TV. The league's ratings have declined precipitously over the past decade.

Back in 1996-97 - Mario Lemieux's final season before his first retirement - games averaged a 1.9 rating. That shrunk to 1.4 the next two seasons, then to 1.3, 1.1, 1.4, 1.1 and 1.1 before a lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season.

Last year, the average rating was 1.0 on NBC, while games on Versus averaged microscopic 0.2 rating, or fewer than 200,000 households. Through 32 Versus telecasts this season, the ratings were about the same.

A consistently compelling product might help to change that. A Rail Cam most certainly will not.

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