NBCSN is struggling for viewers. The tension at the network over a consistent lack of viewership has led to many shows getting repackaged, rebranded, and ultimately canceled. The network's struggles have even led to the possible dissolving of the relationship between NBC Sports and its highest profile acquisition – Michelle Beadle.
One of the jabs critics often take at NBCSN is that the network's highest rated shows outside live sporting events are often hunting and fishing shows. I have nothing against hunting and fishing shows personally, Bill Dance has to make a living too, you know. However, when those shows are your network's top draws and not supplemental programming, it doesn't speak well for your network's growth.
One of those hunting and fishing shows quickly fell into disrepute last week in an embarrassing sequence of events for the network.
It all began when Under Wild Skies featured an episode where host Tony Makris shoots and kills an elephant in Botswana, which no matter how you feel about hunting shows, is a horrible thing to do considering the facts. Even worse, the episode aired on National Elephant Appreciation Day.
(One second while I need to take a shower.)
The negative publicity inevitably led to Makris comparing his critics to Hitler, because that's the default move for anyone who faces criticism, right? Whenever you have to play the Hitler card, you lose. Although who knows, maybe Makris takes pride in being the world record holder in enacting Godwin's Law the fastest.
Those comments caused the alarm bells to ring at NBCSN and they immediately canceled Under Wild Skies. This is what an NBC spokesman told Deadspin's John Koblin:
"Under Wild Skies will no longer air on NBC Sports Sports Network due to the program's close association with its host, whose recent comments comparing his critics to Hitler are outrageous and unacceptable. NBCSN will continue to air all of our other quality outdoor programming."
Between Michelle Beadle's very public feud with the network (including her Twitter onslaught against former co-host Dave Briggs) and the ugliness leading to the cancelation of Under Wild Skies, it's been one of the more tumultuous weeks on record for NBCSN. For the record, Under Wild Skies drew 126,000 viewers on September 22nd and was one of the top rated shows on NBCSN that week.
Perhaps this is a valuable lesson fro NBCSN to be more careful in who they do business with, namely people that aren't elephant killers.