NHL Making Winter Classic Docuseries More Available Digitally
The NHL is broadening the distribution of its long-running Winter Classic docuseries this year, making the behind-the-scenes footage available to more viewers than ever before. The weekly series, titled “Road to the NHL Winter Classic,” will be distributed on social platforms for the first time. The NHL will make full episodes available on YouTube, and will also distribute a shortened, 10-minute version on Facebook Watch. The series airs on NBCSN and NHL Network in the U.S. and Sportsnet in Canada. This year’s series debuts tonight on TV and will be available on the social platforms tomorrow. The '18 Winter Classic will feature Sabres-Rangers Jan. 1 at Citi Field.
“After we saw the success of our Vegas documentary series and looking to further expand our growth digitally, we felt it was natural to explore all the possibilities with this show,” said NHL Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer. “Viewing habits are changing, and we want to make sure this is everywhere where everyone can see it.”
The series originally launched on HBO but moved to Epix in '14. The series was also streamed on the NHL’s website and Facebook pages while it was on Epix, but episodes of the show could not be released until it concluded. Now, all of the episodes will continue to live online available for “binge-viewing,” said NHL CMO Heidi Browning.
Browning said the league will ramp up its paid-media targeting to certain advertisement segments, pushing fans to tune in to the YouTube and Facebook Watch iterations of the show. She noted how both have significant targeting operations already, which the league will look to leverage.
Mayer did not comment on how the change in distribution affects the rights fee the league previously generated from the series, but said that the series will continue to have the same quality of production and access that it previously had. Episodes will be shortened to 30 minutes from an hour this year as it moves to a commercial network and will have a much higher focus on off-ice dealings with the players, Mayer said. Honda will be the presenting partner of the series this year.
Ross Greenburg will produce the show in partnership with NHL Original Productions under the direction of Mayer. Emmy and Tony-nominated actor Bill Camp will serve as narrator.