NBC Does Handball TV Right
At times, I’ve been accused of being a cynical complainer always looking to find something wrong and to rain on people’s parade. So, let me be unequivocal in stating that NBC did a phenomenal job broadcasting the sport of Team Handball at the Olympics. Every single match was broadcast via live stream and was then made available for viewing on demand shortly after each match was over. Every single match! With a HD picture! And, I could watch it on a Roku instead of lugging my laptop around with an HDMI cable. I’ve never had a better TV viewing experience for a major Handball tournament. Heck, I’m pretty sure no one in the world has ever had a better setup. Whoaa, hold on a second: Are you saying that we poor handball deprived Americans just had the best viewing experience, ever? Like better than what the Europeans get?
Yup, that’s what I’m saying.
And, that’s freaking almost impossible to believe. Twenty years ago we got 2 minutes of TV highlights. Now we get every second of every match whenever we want to watch it. In High Def. Holy crap! What could I possibly complain about?
I’ll whine about a few things.
- The Olympic Broadcast Service (OBS) live feed that NBC streams had only one knowledgeable handball commentator: Paul Bray. The rest… Like I said OBS has one knowledgeable handball commentator.
- The live stream dropped at times. Of course, there’s no way of knowing whose fault that is. My provider; my Roku, NBC, OBS, a glitch in the satellite, etc
- It takes a while for the stream to load up. More likely a fault on NBC’s end.
- There’s not much fidelity with my Roku remote when I rewind or fast forward. (OK. That’s not NBC’s fault, but it’s still annoying when you’re trying to replay a critical sequence)
- Soccer and Basketball get their own TV channel on Dish/Direct TV and other platforms. Handball should have one too. (OK, I’m really reaching here, but heck maybe we will get one someday)
What about the Actual NBC TV Broadcast?
Oh, yeah, I almost forgot about that. In fact, I did forget about it for much of the Olympics. Not because it wasn’t a quality produced broadcast. The team of Chris Carrino and 96 Olympian Dawn Allinger Lewis did a solid job mixing standard commentary with the educational commentary that is necessary for most Americans. Better than most of the OBS commentary for sure. But, while I generally prefer regular TV over streaming I just got use to my NBC Roku feed. Always there, usually reliable, no commercials interrupting the action, and no other sports to contend with. Why bother with regular TV?
Why Bother with Regular TV?
Wow. Think about that statement and the implications that go with it. I know millennials are “cutting the cord” for their TV viewing, but, it’s not something that old timers like me are considering much. For me, there are a couple of reasons. First, I figured it would be a hassle dealing with an unreliable interface. Rokus, Apple TV, Amazon Fire are OK , but it’s not as convenient as my Dish network TV interface. Do I really want to figure out for every show I’m interested in whether it’s on Hulu, Netflix or Amazon. And, then there’s the sporting events which are mostly on the major networks and not always readily available for streaming although that’s changing.
And, my recent viewing habits during the Olympics are an indication of how it’s changing. For 16 days I watched a lot of handball and I didn’t use old fashioned TV very much. Certainly, didn’t need beIN Sports and honestly I didn’t really need NBC (in a traditional sense) all that much. The times they are a changing…
Handball TV: Why Just During the Olympics?
So, now I’m wondering why does this awesome handball viewing experience only get to occur for 16 days every 4 years? Why can’t it be a year round experience? Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a Handball Channel very much like the Olympic channels NBC provided? But, instead of choosing between Judo, Rowing, Handball and other sports it was set up like the picture accompanying this article with multiple handball viewing options.
- Click on the little HBL logo. Who is Rhein-Neckar playing in their first match as they look to defend their title in the German Bundesliga.
- Click on the little LNH logo. When does Paris Saint Germain play Montpellier? (Shouldn’t PSG go undefeated if they’ve got most of the best players from Gold and Silver Medalists?)
- Click on the little EHF CL logo. Every Champions League match is available (I know I can already sort of do that with efhTV, but I want it on my Roku.)
- Click on the 2017 IHF WC Logo. The World Championships are in January.
- Click on the PATHF logo. That’s neat, they’ve got the matches from this past June’s Pan American Championships. (I never saw Greenland’s upset win over Argentina. That should be interesting)
- Click on the USATH logo. What do you know; they’ve got last year’s collegiate championship match available.
I think you get the picture. Such a channel would be awesome and one that I would gladly pull my credit card out for. I’m a huge fan, though. How many fans world-wide would be willing to pay for such a channel? How much could they be charged?
How Long Will the Old TV Rights Model Last?
And, so now we come to the dilemma that every sports entity is going to eventually face. Right now TV rights fees are a major revenue source, if not the biggest revenue source for most sports entities. These entities see the potential of web streaming, but fear that fully supporting this new revenue stream may kill their cash cow. These fears stem around the pirating of video transmissions and the uncertainty as to whether viewers will be willing to pay prices to fully support this model. And, when they do allow streaming, does it then cheapen the value of TV rights deals?
These fears, for sure, are legitimate where significant TV rights deals are to be had. For U.S. sports it’s not clear how everything will shake out. The NFL for instance is signing huge TV rights packages because traditional networks see the NFL as the one thing that viewers will watch live, commercials and all. But, one can also see how the NFL could set up a Direct Ticket like package on Rokus and other devices that could be sold directly to consumers, cutting out the middle man entirely.
With handball, the situation is similar, but on a smaller scale. And, with only a handful of nations having big TV rights contracts the practicality of a digital Over The Top (OTT) channel would seem to increase. Why not go direct to the handball consumer if there is no big contract waiting? Further, with handball struggling to get on a good TV network in markets like the U.S. a quality digital handball channel would immediately sidestep that problem.
Indeed some niche sports like pro wrestling and mixed martial arts are already doing this. Although, if the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is being sold for $4 billion it’s hard to call it niche. And, success like that makes me think that a high quality digital channel that consolidated handball telecasts and provided that product worldwide just might be a valuable property. One that could take handball to another level.