Watchdog

Neil Best leaves no stone unturned in the world of sports media.

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NBC Sports Network tries to blaze a trail

FILE - This is a Nov. 17, 2010,

FILE - This is a Nov. 17, 2010, file photo showing Bob Costas. NBC Olympics host Bob Costas says he's more likely to interview officials about Russia's so-called "gay propaganda" law than offer a commentary on it. NBC will broadcast the Sochi Olympics starting Feb. 6, and so far one of the biggest stories surrounding these Winter Games is that recently enacted law. The network announced Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, that Costas would add late-night hosting duties to his prime-time responsibilities. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, File) (Credit: AP)

Sports TV executives have started hiding behind potted plants when they see me coming, knowing I will annoy them with questions about the glut of content and microscopic ratings for cable networks that has resulted.

 Alas, Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports Network, did not react quickly enough at a recent NHL lunch, so I asked him about the state of the channel as it approaches its second anniversary Jan. 2.

 “We’re excited,’’ he said. “We’re going to have close to 50 percent of our prime time schedule as live programming. When we took over it was about 26 percent.

 “We’ve made some very strategic acquisitions in terms of the Premier League, Formula One. Obviously NASCAR begins in ’15. So we think we’ve really done a lot to change the schedule, to change the look and feel of our network. We’ve become a much more relevant place.’’

The network has solidified its place as home of the NHL and will get a boost during the Olympics in February. Still, like its CBS and Fox counterparts, NBC has a long way to go before watching its sports cable network becomes a habit.

“We watch from afar and admire the work and efforts ESPN does, and we’ve made it very clear that we’re kind of marching on our own path,’’ Miller said. “The big guys in the business have a 33-, 34-year head start . . . We think people are finding us and the audiences we’re serving know to come to us for that product.’’

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