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Volume 23 No. 23
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NHL using new digital dasherboards for ASG

The NHL tested the boards on Jan. 13 when the Blues hosted the Ducks in St. Louis, site of this year’s All-Star Game.
Photo: Courtesy of NHL
The NHL tested the boards on Jan. 13 when the Blues hosted the Ducks in St. Louis, site of this year’s All-Star Game.
Photo: Courtesy of NHL
The NHL tested the boards on Jan. 13 when the Blues hosted the Ducks in St. Louis, site of this year’s All-Star Game.
Photo: Courtesy of NHL

The NHL will use its All-Star festivities this weekend to take another step toward the potential integration of digitally enhanced dasherboards (DED) at all 31 club arenas. If all goes well, the initiative could be introduced as early as the 2021-22 or 2022-23 seasons, according to one league executive.

 

The technology will be utilized during the on-ice events in St. Louis such as the 3-on-3 game, the skills competition and the main event, giving the NHL the chance to see how different sponsors appear on broadcasts in the U.S., Canada and other markets. Keith Wachtel, the NHL’s chief business officer, said the implementation would be a “seismic shift in camera-visible signage for a professional sports league” and alter the sales strategy for teams, media partners and the league itself. 

This weekend, there will be nine separate feeds incorporating the new digital ads into each of the broadcasts, specifically for NBC (U.S.), Rogers (Canada) and TVA (French Canadian), along with six other international markets including Russia, Sweden and Finland. Because this year’s All-Star Game is in the U.S., Canadian sponsors typically wouldn’t gain exposure on the Rogers broadcast, for example, as viewers would see the Dunkin’ brand along the dasherboards. Based on the experiment, though, Tim Horton’s can activate and reach its target audience. 

The league’s first and only experimentation with digital dasherboards came during the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, and it has teamed with London-based company Supponor to refine the technology ever since. Upgraded dasherboards that are now embedded with special infrared radiation lighting have reduced technology costs by one-third, said Jarod Were, the NHL’s vice president of strategic planning. Though he and Wachtel didn’t provide specifics, the latter said setting up and implementing the technology at each venue would be a “nine-figure investment over the course of five years.”

“It’s significant,” he said. “That’s why we really need to figure out all of the different monetization opportunities.” 

Who exactly will pay for implementing the dasherboard technology and what a workable business model will entail are both ongoing discussions, said Wachtel, who added that unless those problems are solved there is no guarantee the boards will be implemented league-wide. 

With the use of the digital dasherboards, the league and its media partners can also change how they sell those ads. Instead of a club being able to sell only dasherboard ads at its own arena, this new technology would allow teams to sell ads specific to their market even during road games. Ads could also be broken down into specific times during the game — think power plays, shootouts and the puck drop, to name a few. 

“It’s a whole new way of looking at this incredibly valuable signage,” said Wachtel. “Not every signage is created equal and not every marketer is paying the same for that sign. What this also gives you is the opportunity to sell it based on supply and demand. If 10 advertisers want to pay all of the money to own the DED in a game, they can do that. If 50 wanted to, they could as well.”