2014-15 NHL Season Preview: Rogers Sportsnet Enters NHL Fray With GamePlus, State-of-the-Art Studio
In a landmark deal that shocked hockey fans across the country, Rogers Sportsnet effectively secured creative control over broadcast of Canada’s most popular sport. The 12-year, $5.2 billion deal, announced late last year, is the largest media-rights deal in NHL history, a responsibility the media giant isn’t taking lightly.
Yesterday, Rogers unveiled GamePlus, a new experience within Rogers’s NHL GameCentre Live platform, which offers exclusive camera angles, interviews, analysis, and more. One such camera angle is the Sky Cam, which was installed in Toronto’s Air Canada Centre earlier this year. The camera sits on the 200 level of the venue and continuously follows the action from red line to red line.
“The really great aspect of what this camera can do is, it moves with the play,” says Gord Cutler, SVP, NHL production, Rogers. “As opposed to the previous play-by-play camera that was actually static and was always kind of behind the play, this camera allows you to stay in the play. … I really think it’s going to revolutionize the way we shoot the games.”
GamePlus is currently available during Toronto Maple Leafs home games, and the Rogers Sportsnet team hopes to expand it to the remaining six Canadian NHL cities (Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Winnipeg). Portable technologies like Ref Cam, a small camera mounted on the referee’s helmet, will be available for games across the country.
“The [camera] that stuck out to me is the Referee Cam,” says Rogers NHL Ambassador and NHL Hall of Famer Mark Messier, “because, when you watch the game, you watch in 3D: you look down on the ice, [and] it all looks so very easy because you can see open ice, you can see the open man, you can see clearly as a fan. But, from a player’s perspective, it’s not 3D; you’re looking at 10 players on the ice. I think it’s going to give people a better understanding of player actions. [Being] down on ice level, I think it’s going to give fans a better perspective.”
Additional cameras include POV Cam, mounted inside the glass on the blue line; Star Cam, which tracks a single player throughout the game; and Goal Line Cam, which provides a top-town view of the ice at both ends.
Using the MyReplay feature, fans can select up to eight replay angles to analyze key plays during the game. The technologies will be used sparingly on the linear telecast as incentive for fans to check out the mobile experience, currently available on iOS, Android, and desktop. And, with one day to go before GamePlus’s first regular-season game, the Rogers team believes the technologies are ready for primetime.
“We’re really pleased with how the tests have gone,” says Pary Bell, VP, Rogers Media & NHL Digital Properties. “It’s really compelling content.”
Hockey Central Set To Go Live
In addition to the dynamic second-screen experience, Rogers Sportsnet recently unveiled the largest sports studio in Canada. Measuring a whopping 11,000 sq. ft. with nine separate sets and 52 monitors, Hockey Central Studio will provide the headquarters for Rogers’s NHL coverage all season.
The studio features a rotating main anchor desk in a 360-degree open environment, which allows cameras to shoot from any angle. With 14 cameras at its disposal, Rogers Sportsnet can shoot three live broadcasts for three different networks at any one time.
An 11- x 38-ft. ultra-high-resolution monitor (the largest in a Canadian television studio), an LED floor, and a giant video-monitor wall will display video and graphics. A new graphics and animation package, designed in-house by the Rogers Creative Group, includes 10 custom opening animations, 250 player animations, and more than 1,000 support animations that enhance storytelling and game analysis for viewers.
Hockey Central Studio was designed by Jack Morton PDG, the company that designed the sets for Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium for Vancouver 2010 Winter Games and London 2012 Summer Games.
Canada’s Favorite Sport
Tomorrow, Rogers Sportsnet will drop the puck on its first season as a national NHL broadcaster with an all-Canadian doubleheader: Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs, followed by Calgary Flames vs. Vancouver Canucks. On Sunday, Rogers will introduce Canada to a new hockey-night franchise — Sunday Night Hockey — with each game featuring a Canadian team in action along with player profiles, grassroots stories, and local entertainment features.
The iconic Hockey Night in Canada franchise — a CBC staple for more than 60 years — will continue to be broadcast on CBC for at least the next four years. However, Rogers will control editorial content, on-air talent (including Ron McLean and Don Cherry), and creative direction of the show and will earn all revenue from the broadcasts.
Rogers also acquired the Canadian broadcast rights to the 2015 NHL Winter Classic and Hockey Day in Canada, an all-day event featuring an all-Canadian tripleheader. CBC will continue to broadcast the Stanley Cup Final.
In total, Rogers will broadcast 350 national regular-season games across nine networks: CBC, City, Sportsnet (East, Ontario, West, and Pacific), Sportsnet ONE, Sportsnet 360, and FX Canada. TVA takes control of all Canadian French-language multimedia rights, including 22 Canadiens games per season, while TSN maintains its regional coverage of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, and Montreal Canadiens.