NBCSN Sunday Sports Report has aired two episodes. The show is more than fine, with the always professional Liam McHugh acting as more tour guide than actual host. Everything looks nice, there are no technical snafus (the show is clearly pre-taped in some sections, so it doesn’t have that flying by the seat of your pants factor that other shows do) and, overall, there’s nothing really to gripe with about it.
It’s approach as a show is one that I’m interested in far more than its actual quality, however. Here’s how NBC Sports President of Programming Jon Miller described it to me earlier this month:
There’s a lot of other product that we want to cover, and those sports deserve to get covered in depth. Unfortunately, those sports don’t always get what they deserve in terms of their coverage and attention, and we’re going to make sure they get their due respect and due attention.
The show pretty much stands by this mission: though there are infrequent references to, say, the MLB pennant races going on as time permits and should it fit whatever story the show is covering (like the California earthquake’s effect on all sports), NBCSN Sunday Sports Report is a show for people who watch NBCSN’s various properties. It’s a spot to see more in depth coverage of sports that might not be getting much play on SportsCenter or Fox Sports Live. In fact, other than the NFL and Notre Dame, I don’t think most of what got shown on last night’s episode (IndyCar, EPL, Olympic sports) is your typical SportsCenter material.
Sports highlight shows do have a tendency to focus more on sports that their networks have a contract with. One only has to see the MNF postgame edition of SportsCenter or Fox Sports Live doing the same with UFC as examples. It’s rare though that a network actually tells the viewer what is happening as NBCSN is doing. If you like the sports NBCSN shows, you’ll be much more likely to tune in.
What you wonder is if the other non-ESPN networks might take a turn towards this in the future. Would Fox Sports 1 double down on NFL, MLB, Big East basketball and the Champions League? Would CBS Sports Network ever do a show about the Mountain West or lacrosse? Well, that might be a little extreme, but I do wonder if NBCSN Sunday Sports Report working as a show might inspire others. In spite of the show basically pushing NBCSN further into its own niche, it does seem like it’s going to have a chance to survive.
The show will air after Sunday Night Football and get at least some cross-promotion, but more importantly, when January comes around NBCSN will have the NHL in primetime. Other than Wednesday, that’s traditionally been the network’s biggest hockey night. The audience will be there, even if it’s just people leaving the TV on while they fall asleep.
Is NBCSN Sunday Sports Report a good show? Yes. But more importantly, what does it mean for the future of sports talk on NBCSN, and sports talk outside of NBCSN? The network has been through its fair share of studio shows (NBC Sports Talk, The Lights, SportsDash with Yahoo Sports) but this may finally be the one that sticks.