SBD/Issue 136/Sports Media

New NHL Network Online Video Portal Debuts This Week

NHL This Week To Unveil Online
Video Portal On
The NHL this week will unveil a "dramatically reworked online video portal, creating a full-fledged online counterpart to the NHL Network and the first of a two-step digital strategy that this fall will bring a complete relaunch of," according to Fisher & Mickle of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. NHL Network Online will be led by NHL Senior Exec VP/Business & Media John Collins, VP/Broadband & New Media Production Andre Mika and Senior VP/Media Sales Larry Gelfand, and will feature a daily program called “The Hockey Show.” It also will include a “channel-based directory not unlike ESPN360 with numerous links to highlights, live programming including news conferences and radio simulcasts, archive material, podcasts and other content.” The portal, “essentially replacing the much less organized, will be housed primarily within but also will be accessible through the club sites starting in late June.” Mika: “We are in the midst of a complete rethink in terms of how we deliver content digitally. We’ve never really programmed directly to as opposed to just populating the site. … We’re after a much more emotional play where you feel as if you are in the arena each time you visit.” Fisher & Mickle note many of the videos will be “edited in a faster-paced presentation for online consumption, and behind-the-scenes access is also being given significant priority.” Early ad buys for NHL Network Online include Bud Light, which is sponsoring “The Hockey Show,” Cisco and Dodge. The channels sponsored by Bud Light and Dodge will be “‘skinned,’ in which the color scheme and imagery of those channels will match the respective brand colors.” Financial terms for the sponsorships were not disclosed, but in the case of Bud Light, the ad is “part of its required ad spend on NHL media platforms” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/7 issue).

Analyst Feels Video Portal Aimed
At NHL's Most Passionate Fans
TARGETING AVID FANS: Jupiter Research analyst Bobby Tulsiani, who was offered a sneak preview of the site, said, “I thought it was really engaging. It draws you in. For a video product, they’ve really raised the bar on the experience.” He called it a “branded and rich experience for the top [1-5%] of passionate fans.” Tulsiani: “It is immersive, but as a huge traffic driver to acquire new customers, I’d be skeptical." Mika said, “We have 53 million avid fans that we know of. If we can attract anyone outside those 53 million, that’s icing on the cake. But the experience is to expose them on a more national level to the game.”  Collins added, “We’re focused on things that get to the heart of activating the avid fan. We’re the premier league in an international sport -- what’s missing in this $2.5[B] business is the national scale” (N.Y. TIMES, 4/6). Mika: “Compared to an ESPN fan … our fans are worth a 40[%] premium over some of the regular sports fans because of their ability to use technology.” The AP’s Ira Podell writes an “interesting feature of the new site that has a sleek look and many areas to draw attention, is a column displaying scores of the previous night’s games. With a user-friendly setup, fans can click on a particular contest to see all the goals, big hits and key saves listed in a boxscore format. With another click on a particular play, a video replay will be seen” (AP, 4/7).

NO PLANS FOR LIVE GAME BROADCASTS: In Ottawa, Vito Pilieci reports the league has no plans to use NHL Network Online "to broadcast games live." In addition to "The Hockey Show," the portal will include Livewire, which offers exclusive videos of warmups, news conferences and teams' morning skates and practices, while the Playoff Channel will deliver news around the NHL playoffs (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 4/7).

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