SBJ/20100830/Media

NHL brings over Coplin from NFL to capitalize on ‘considerable opportunity’ on media front

The NHL is spending its offseason strengthening its media operations by hiring an executive to oversee all content, investing in a new high-definition studio and relaunching the NHL Network.

League officials believe the investments will help the NHL generate additional revenue from its TV, digital and mobile media platforms.

“There’s considerable opportunity for the league on the media front,” said NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins.

Collins hired Charles Coplin, formerly the vice president of programming at the NFL, to lead these efforts. Coplin left the NFL last week and will be the NHL’s executive vice president of content, where he will try to improve the quality of NHL content across all of its media platforms, including the NHL Network and NHL.com.

Coplin also will maintain relationships with regional sports networks that carry NHL programming.

“The more John and I spoke, the more I was pleased with what he and the commissioner were putting together,” Coplin said. “I’m excited to move forward with all these platforms.”

Coplin becomes the second executive, after Keith Wachtel, the NHL’s senior vice president of integrated sales and marketing, to defect from the NFL to join Collins. Collins worked at the NFL in two stints between 1989 and 2004. Since joining the NHL in 2006, he has brought over other former NFL employees such as Don Renzulli, NHL senior vice president of events, and Perry Cooper, NHL senior vice president of direct and digital marketing.

“I talked to a lot of high-level production guys, and Charles was No. 1 or No. 2 on everybody’s list,” Collins said. “If he was No. 2 on anybody’s list, it was only because they didn’t think he would leave the NFL.”

This season, the NHL takes over programming responsibility for the NHL Network from Canadian broadcaster CTV, which had managed programming since the NHL and TSN jointly launched the network in Canada in 2002 and in the United States in 2007. The league is investing with CTV in a new high-definition studio in Toronto.

Coplin will be charged with leading the league’s effort to improve the quality of programming on the NHL Network and more fully integrating its content with content from NHL.com.

Collins wants the NHL Network to replicate the news-gathering capabilities of NHL.com and hire talent that can be spread across all of the NHL’s platforms. He also wants the league to begin producing more original programming that can be used on all of its platforms. He formerly worked at NFL Films during a time when it increased its original programming from 100 to 300-plus hours and he foresees the NHL making similar programming strides.

“When Brett Favre stubbed his toe, every media outlet covered it,” Coplin said. “At NFL Network, we would cover stories and compete with the other guys. Here, on many days, we’ll be the only ones doing the work. We have to make sure our fans trust us.”

The NHL’s ability to do so will be aided by its other offseason investments. Its teams have invested in piping at NHL venues that can carry audio and video feeds in and out of the arenas. The league also extended its content-provider partnership with NeuLion, and Collins said the partners are investing in a “hockey factory” that will take video footage from arenas and repackage it as highlights during games. Those highlights will then be pushed back to the NHL’s 30 arenas and regional rights holders to be broadcast during period intermissions.

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