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Volume 21 No. 35
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NHL turns to social media specialist NowThis for short-form video series on Vegas team

The NHL is making a push into short-form, digital-first content, launching a series on Facebook’s new video hub.

The league is partnering on the series with digital news company NowThis, which was launched in 2012 by Huffington Post co-founder Kenneth Lerer and former CEO Eric Hippeau. It is one of the most viewed video news creators on social channels, and its parent company, Group Nine Media, received a $100 million investment from Discovery Communications last October.

The series, co-produced by NHL Original Productions, is titled “Home Team: The Vegas Golden Knights” and intended to chronicle the team coming together for its first training camp, NHL Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer said. However, because filming was underway at the time of the Las Vegas shooting Oct. 1, the focus shifted, documenting how sports and a team can help a community rally together in times of crisis.

The five-part weekly series, which will debut Nov. 8, will appear on Facebook’s Watch platform, the social media company’s new original-video viewing hub. Each episode will be 10 to 15 minutes, with a tone and approach similar to the NHL’s long-form efforts seen in EPIX’s “Road to the Winter Classic,” Mayer said. The series will have its own landing page on Facebook Watch, where all its episodes will live after airing.

Alongside the series, NowThis will launch its sports channel, which NowThis President Athan Stephanopoulos said would focus on human interest and emotionally driven stories rather than game results.

Mayer said the league believes short-form video can serve avid hockey fans while also attracting new ones. “We’re seeing a shift in viewing habits, where fans are consuming video in short doses, where they are looking for fun or emotional stories where they don’t have to know everything about the history of hockey,” Mayer said.

Since the start of the season, NHL Original Productions has been working with Canadian duo On The Bench on a web series built around their satirical look at hockey fundamentals. Clips of less than a minute, released on Twitter, exaggerate silly elements of hockey’s subculture such as how to celebrate goals or tape sticks, and have recently featured young NHL stars like Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.

Mayer said discussions continue at the league on how it can further tap into efforts like this. “We’re interested in all emerging opportunities in the digital space where the number of views and the ease in sharing the content speaks for itself,” he said.