With Playoff Coverage On Four Networks, NHL Gets Diplomatic

By Carolyn Braff

When the puck
drops on the NHL playoffs this week, more first-round games will be televised
than ever before, creating a logistical obstacle course for the league office.
With as many as four television rightsholders covering each game, the NHL must
diplomatically decide which cameras and commentators go where — a tough task
when attempting to divide 30 camera positions by four networks.
“There are
a number of our series where we have four television rightsholders covering the
same game,” explains Adam Acone, VP of broadcasting and programming for the
National Hockey League. For any given game, a national Canadian network, a
national U.S.
network, and two local team rightholders may all be covering the game from the
same building.
challenge is taking a finite number of camera positions and commentator booths
and allocating those in a manner that every network is able to do the level of
production that they want to do and be able to tell the stories that they want
to tell,” Acone says. “That’s the biggest challenge we have, particularly in
the first round.”
games generally use 30-35 cameras, so some jockeying for position is
inevitable, but, on occasion, limited production crews force networks to work
together and share programming. With doubleheaders on every night through the
first round of the playoffs in both the U.S.
and Canada, Canada’s
TSN may take a Versus telecast for a single game, or Versus may borrow a feed
from CBC, or vice versa.
“What that
allows is more national programming and more games for our fans, which is
ultimately what we’re trying to do,” Acone explains.
As the
playoffs move towards the Stanley Cup Finals, the number of networks decreases,
but the number of cameras increases — from 30 to 45 — so the NHL met with
newbie playoff teams like Columbus ahead of time, to see where those new
cameras could best be placed.
“We wanted
to create new camera positions without impacting season-ticket holders, which
we were able to do in some cases,” Acone explains. “That’s our goal always, to
increase the television capabilities of the arena while not impacting the fans,
and our teams have been very accommodating.”
On the
digital side, the NHL has increased its video capabilities as well, with the
launch of The Portal at NHL.com. The new video player features a daily
streaming All-Access Pregame show, produced and hosted at the NHL store in Manhattan. Each show will
last approximately 20 minutes and highlight each night’s matchups with reports
from Web shooters and commentators at each of the host arenas. Each of the 16
Stanley Cup playoff teams will have its own dedicated beat reporter on The
The Portal
also offers fans live coverage from the NHL Video Review Room in Toronto, where goals are
reviewed during the playoffs. Fans can log on to The Portal to see in real time
how the league interprets and applies the rules to allow or disallow a score.
The NHL is
also breaking into the social networking world of Twitter, hosting in-person
Tweet-Ups across North America on the opening
night of the playoffs.
different cities will be hosting Twitter parties, so there will be this whole
dialog going on,” Acone explains. “The Tweet-Ups will create this social
experience and community. With Twitter, it’s not just about the people that are
Twittering, but all of those that are following them, so this will create a
unique way for our fans to share experiences and create some energy around the
opening night of the playoffs.”

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