Digital Dudes Q&A: NeuLion’s Chris Wagner Talks ‘Covering Hockey Anywhere’

With the latest edition of NeuLion’s live streaming show, Digital Dudes, dropping the puck on Thursday, Oct. 23 at 1 p.m. ET, SVG took the opportunity to sit down with the company’s EVP/Co-Founder Chris Wagner to discuss ‘Covering Hockey Anywhere.’
Hosted by Wagner, this hockey-focused session will also feature David Purdy, SVP Content, Rogers; John Pacino, VP Product Development & Social Media, NHL; and Josh Fenton, Commissioner, National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC).

Wagner_ChrisWith the NHL season just days away, how can teams and content-owners drive fan awareness and brands through digital outlets to kick off the season?
The NHL season is off to a strong start.  Live and on demand video content has been a team effort combining resources from the teams and league.  NHL GameCenter and NHL GameCenter Live have been key fan-facing components for fan video consumption both live games and on-demand content such as pre-game skates, post-game interviews, press conferences, highlights, and more.  The league and teams have also worked on amplifying the club brand with individual club apps.

How do you see live streaming services like NHL GameCenter Live and NBC Sports Live Extra changing the way fans consume hockey and the leagues increase revenue/brand awareness?
It is really all about the experience.  Can you imagine having these kind of camera content feeds on your set-top box?  You really need digital to embrace a whole new way to engage the fan.  In fact, digital is growing its audience faster than legacy services like Center Ice on satellite.

College hockey has seen a slight rise in exposure lately on linear TV thanks to NBC, CBS, and ESPN cable nets, but it remains a sport rarely carried on national networks. How can conferences and streaming outlets take advantage of the digital space to provide greater exposure (and more live games) for college hockey?
The major networks are limited in time slots that they can cover sports.  Many conferences are turning to digital to deliver content not covered on TV.  The brand new digital NCHC.TV network provides an unlimited opportunity to stream programming not available anywhere else; while the traditional network TV has limited channel capacity and must cater to the big audience games only.

In Canada, hockey is, of course, king. But how are rights holders like Rogers/Sportsnet and Bell/TSN utilizing their digital platforms to drive NHL TV ratings, revenue, brand awareness, and fan engagement?
As we all know, Rogers bought the rights to hockey on all screens.  They are now increasing the programming, creating new camera angles, highlight packages, and more.  It doesn’t matter what screen you watch on as they are monetizing content across all screens with sponsorship and advertising.  It is a great time to be a hockey fan in Canada!

What are the greatest challenges facing hockey content owners in delivering video to fans anywhere on any device?
Candidly, those challenges are not challenges for the rights holder – that’s why they hire NeuLion.  We get them to market, reduce the complexity of multiple devices, and give the tools to make money.

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