SBJ/December 12-18, 2011/Media

Greenburg to produce reality programs documenting the lives of star NHL players

Former HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg will produce a 10-episode series of reality documentary programs for the NHL titled “NHL 36,” with each 30-minute episode documenting 36 hours in the life of an NHL star on and off the ice.

The program will debut at 6:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday on Versus with a profile of Chicago Blackhawks center Patrick Kane.

Ross Greenburg said “NHL 36” will get behind the scenes.
Photo by: MICHAEL GOOD PHOTOGRAPHY
The HBO series “24/7,” which this year follows the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers in the build-up to their Winter Classic game on Jan. 2, also debuts that evening, at 10 p.m. ET. The successful “24/7” series was created under Greenburg’s leadership at HBO, along with numerous critically acclaimed documentaries.

“Getting behind the scenes and into forbidden places and softer places of the NHL is part of the story,” Greenburg said of “NHL 36.” “This could be the launch pad for more guys to become true superstars and cross over to the average sports fan.”

The program is the first major production for NHL Original Productions, the company started by the league and Greenburg in November. NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins said the success of “24/7” last season, when it showcased the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, convinced the league that it could produce similar programming on its own. The league discussed original programming opportunities with NBC during its national television rights negotiations earlier this year.

“Ultimately [NBC Sports Executive Producer] Sam Flood told me he had a window for the show and that he thought it would be great to do it,” Collins said. “We told him we’d like to produce it, and that’s when we talked about Ross’ involvement.”

Collins said NBC and the NHL are splitting the cost of production and that no specific sponsors will be tied to the broadcast. He declined to give a dollar figure for the cost of production but called it “a significant investment.”

Greenburg, who oversaw HBO Sports from 2000 until earlier this year, said the show’s infrastructure includes seven cameramen and a producer, as well as himself. On the production end, Greenburg will work with Flood and Charles Coplin, NHL executive vice president of content. The camera crew will do its final editing at the NHL studios.

NBC has yet to finalize a schedule for the show after Wednesday’s premiere. NHL representatives said the show will not air during the holidays but will return in January.

Collins said the show will re-air on the NHL Network, though the league and NBC are still finalizing rebroadcast details. The NHL Network will carry the show in Canada.

Greenburg said the show’s primary challenge will be in the compressed filming and editing schedule. For the Kane episode, Greenburg and his team had nine days for production time. “I’ve gotten pressure to shorten the gap to about three or four days,” Greenburg said.

Collins said NBC and the league will begin advertising the series across their respective television and digital platforms this week, ahead of the debut. He said the “NHL 36” program is not a trial run and that the league has committed to producing original content for the long term.

“You talk to anyone in hockey, and everyone would say this kind of programming is needed,” Collins said. “When you do it well, it’s a big opportunity.”

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