SBD/December 15, 2010/Sports Media

HBO "24/7" On Winter Classic Offers Unprecedented Access To Teams

"24/7" Series Promises To Offer Unfiltered Look At Penguins, Capitals

HBO's "24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic" series debuts tonight, and the "word is this hockey version of 'Hard Knocks' may set a few eyeballs on fire with stuff never seen before on television -- on and off the ice," according to Bob Raissman of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The show marks the "first time a network, not beholden to a league it's in partnership with, will be given regular-season access." NFL teams featured in HBO's "Hard Knocks" already "know what to expect" based on previous seasons, but "that connection with HBO did not exist" for the NHL. HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg said, "That didn't matter. If anything, it was the opposite. The NHL is starved for attention. They are all over us. It's the NHL that's pushing the envelope here." Raissman noted that means "total access throughout the series," as the NHL "has never had the opportunity to reach the audience HBO can deliver." Greenburg: "We're just seeing the doors fly wide open. I guarantee the sport of hockey has never been showcased in the way we are going to present it." Raissman wrote "going off ice" with Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin and Penguins C Sidney Crosby could "prove to be compelling." Raissman: "And if Washington coach Bruce Boudreau or Penguins head man Dan Bylsma have just a little Rex Ryan in them all the better" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/12).

SPIRIT OF COOPERATION: HBO Sports Senior VP & Exec Producer Rick Bernstein said, "The reaction from the NHL, from the teams, the coaches and the players, has been as good or better than any '24/7' we have ever produced." In Pittsburgh, Maria Sciullo noted HBO's cameras are "rolling at games, during practices, on airplanes, in hotel rooms, at restaurants, and they might even follow some players or coaches home." The "final say on what appears on the episodes, however, is up for negotiation." Bernstein noted that is a policy the net has "had in place since we started doing 'Hard Knocks.'" Teams "can preview the edited content and if they believe it puts them in a compromising position, from a competitive standpoint, HBO will work with that." But Bernstein said, "I can tell you that over the years there have been very few changes requested of us" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 12/12).

BLENDED TOGETHER: Greenburg "called the four-episode 'Road to the Winter Classic' a 'hybrid'" of the "24/7" series and "Hard Knocks." Greenburg: "There are differences. We've been embedded with both teams leading up to the first telecast. ... Unlike 'Hard Knocks,' these are regular-season games, so there are going to be some real highs and lows and different emotions coming out of those contests." Greenburg added what the net has seen of the series "looks real good." Greenburg: "The NHL showed our preview during its Board of Governors meeting and they applauded. The league's really excited about this" (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 12/13 issue).

GETTING A SNEAK PEAK
: YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski noted HBO Senior Producer Dave Harmon has seen the "nearly complete first episode," and he said that Penguins G Marc-Andre Fleury "could be a breakout star." Capitals D Scott Hannan also "has received some surprising editorial attention," as he joined the team from the Avalanche at the start of the Caps' current six-game losing streak. Harmon added, "There's enough Sidney Crosby on the first show where you could say he gets the most camera time for the Penguins." Wyshynski noted it is "fairly apparent that the Capitals' struggles have created many a Rex Ryan moment for coach Bruce Boudreau, to draw a comparison to the New York Jets' 'Hard Knocks' series that was filled with Ryan F-bombs" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/14). In DC, Dan Steinberg noted viewers should "expect profanity." Steinberg: "I was told to prepare an F bomb counter, and also that Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau would 'make Rex Ryan blush.'" Harmon said the "24/7" series has "more vulgarity than" the Jets "Hard Knocks" series (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/14).

WHO'S NUMBER ONE? As part of a special eight-page pullout on the Capitals-Penguins Winter Classic, TV GUIDE's Barry Meisel writes the "heated argument over who's the NHL's top player promises to be why many eyes are on the juiciest Winter Classic matchup yet." NBC NHL announcer Mike Emrick said Crosby and Ovechkin are the "two guys who are subject to the most debate." Emrick, referring to Hockey HOFers Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, said, "For those of us who are old enough, we remember we went through this before with 99 versus 66." Meisel also offers a look at five more NHL games that are "worth watching this season" (TV GUIDE, 12/20 issue).

BID ON THE ITEM WITHOUT GOING OVER: The AP noted Crosby and Ovechkin "will appear together" on CBS' "The Price Is Right" next Monday. The players, along with NBC analyst Jeremy Roenick, will "introduce an NHL-themed showcase that includes a trip to Pittsburgh" for the Winter Classic (AP, 12/14).

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