Kevin Harlan calling Jamal Murray's buzzer-beater against Minnesota. Credit: NBA on TNT

The COVID pandemic era is thankfully in our rearview mirror. However, some of the practices that sports networks picked up during pandemic times are still in operation, and not for the benefit of viewers. Specifically, remote broadcasts.

Remote broadcasts made sense during the COVID era because of various health and safety protocols. Videos went viral of famed sports broadcasters calling games off monitors in their home offices. It was incredible and admirable that they could continue doing such a professional job in bizarre circumstances, not to mention a wonder of modern technology.

But it’s 2024 now. Not 2020.

As live sports has returned to normal, networks have kept broadcasters at home in a studio in an effort to do nothing else but to save money. Nobody can say with a straight face that remote broadcasts are a higher quality than actually having broadcasters in the arena. The examples are notable and numerous.

But perhaps the most glaring was this week when TNT’s broadcast crew missed a goalie change in the Canucks-Oilers conference semifinal. Why? Because TNT isn’t sending announcers to some games in Canada. For the Stanley Cup Playoffs!

Here’s the strange part – TNT is paying the NHL $225 million per season in rights fees. The Stanley Cup Playoffs should be when everyone involved in the sport puts their best foot forward. Why pay that much money and then put forth an inferior product? In the context of that contract, the money to send announcers to the arena should be a rounding error.

Compare remote announcers doing their best with an impossible task in just trying to find out basic information to the energy of this iconic call from Kevin Harlan going face-to-face with Jamal Murray in TNT’s coverage of the NBA Playoffs and there’s no contest.

So what can be done about it?

Does anyone think Gary Bettman is satisfied that TNT is obviously sending more resources to the NBA than the NHL and putting together a better telecast?

This is where leagues like the NHL should step in and demand more from their rights partners. It’s not a good look for the NHL or anyone else to have a remote broadcast that prioritizes pennies over product. Make it as part of the rights deal moving forward that announcers have to be on site, especially for playoff games or games on national television. It’s better for everyone involved and it should be part of the cost of doing business for major sports telecasts.

Because if the leagues accept networks cutting corners now, then it will become the norm in the long run. And it won’t just be the viewers at home that will suffer for it.

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