NBC Sports, RSNs Unlock New Stanley Cup Production Synergies With Side-by-Side Telecasts

National, regional productions will deploy a single truck and crew, two separate announce teams

For the first time since NBC Sports Group acquired NHL rights prior to the 2005-06 season, coverage of Stanley Cup Playoff first-round games on NBCUniversal cable networks (NBCSN, CNBC, USA Network), as well as on NHL Network, will air alongside local RSN game telecasts without local blackouts (except in Boston and Pittsburgh). Although the side-by-side format will give hockey fans a choice between the team-specific style of their local RSN telecast and the national NBC Sports broadcast, it also creates significant new synergies on the production side, allowing NBC to use a single production with two separate announce teams.

“Instead of NBCSN traveling in a full crew and truck, we’ll be utilizing the RSN existing facility,” says John McGuinness, NHL coordinating producer, NBC Sports Group. “In essence, our RSN is providing enhanced coverage. NBCSN commentators react to the pictures and replays provided by the RSN. We have some camera feeds that allow NBCSN to break away from local RSN advertisements. The NBCSN producer onsite is sitting in the RSN control room and can see and hear what the RSN producer is planning and relay that to our talent.”

Prior to this season, NBC Sports’ national first-round cable telecasts were blacked out in the teams’ respective markets. However, now fans have the option to watch their RSN feed or NBC Sports’ national feed. In addition, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app will provide streaming coverage of every first-round game (as well as every ensuing playoff game televised on NBCU networks) for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs.

“We think it’s a great opportunity for fans to know there is one stop for hockey during the postseason and come to the networks of NBC,” says Sam Flood, executive producer, NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network. “Production philosophy stays the same. We’ve got the best talent team in the sport. Anytime you can listen to Doc [Emrick], Eddie [Olczyk], and Pierre [McGuire] call a game, I think it’s any fan’s best way to enjoy and feel the passion.

“But the fans can still watch their local telecast, if they want,” he continues. “If you’re a hardcore Capitals fan, stay on the local telecast. If you’re out of town or living in Washington, you get to watch the national broadcast. It’s the perfect world. It satisfies the local fan but gives the national brand an opportunity to play into every market. So that will work out great.”

To televise as many as five games on a given day/night, NBC Sports Group will run first-round games on NBC, NBCSN, USA Network, CNBC, and NHL Network. Local blackouts for games on cable will no longer apply (excluding Boston and Pittsburgh, where no streaming will be available), so fans in all markets will have the ability to watch their team on NBC Sports’ national telecasts and digital platforms.

“It’s good that the league was able to work out this new plan,” Flood explains. “I think it’s a win for the fans, so it will be a lot less confusing where the games are and when these local blackouts hit, which at times made people a little bit unaware of where to go. Now you know where to go. We like that. Simplicity is a good thing.”

For the sixth consecutive year, every NHL Stanley Cup Playoff game will be presented nationally across NBC Sports platforms and selected NBCUniversal networks. During April, May, and June, NBC Sports Group will televise as many as 105 playoff games and possibly more than 260 hours of programming.

Locally, NBC Sports Regional Networks will surround the Blackhawks (CSN Chicago), Capitals (CSN Mid-Atlantic), Bruins (CSN New England), and Sharks (NBC Sports California) with first-round game coverage and in-depth live news coverage. NBCSports.com will provide comprehensive online coverage of the playoffs with online-only video, contributions from Comcast SportsNet insiders, and constant news updates from ProHockeyTalk.

Although NBC’s telecasts will feature the Inside The Glass announce position that has become a staple of its NHL coverage and plenty of cutting-edge production tools, the Peacock is still mindful not to let technology get in the way of telling the story on the ice.

“As the tournament goes on, it all comes down to telling the stories, and we’re not people who believe you have to spend a million dollars on toys that get in the way of the telecast,” says Flood. “Ultimately, the game sells itself. We want to be inside the game. That’s why we have the Inside The Glass position. But, ultimately, our job is to capture the intensity and the passion of the playoffs, and production toys sometimes aren’t the best way to do that. We’ve got plenty of cameras where we need to be.”

However, don’t be surprised to see a few new tech toys deployed once the Stanley Cup Final arrives.

“For the Stanley Cup Final,” teases Flood, “we have a few tricks up our sleeves to add and enhance that telecast.”

Brandon Costa contributed to this story.

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