ESPN, Disney Channel To Produce First-Ever Live, Animated NHL Game Broadcast With ‘NHL Big City Greens Classic’
The alternate presentation will leverage NHL Edge puck and player tracking data to recreate the action on the ice as it is happening
ESPN, Disney Channel and the NHL are teaming up for the “NHL Big City Greens Classic,” the first-ever live, animated NHL game telecast, featuring the Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers, on March 14 at 7 p.m. ET. The alternate presentation of the Capitals-Rangers game will feature live, real-time volumetric animation of players and teams modeled after characters on Disney Branded Television’s Emmy Award-winning animated comedy “Big City Greens.” ESPN+, Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney+ will present the live, animated telecast, while the main telecast will be available on ESPN and ESPN+.
The first-of-its-kind alternate presentation will leverage NHL Edge positioning data (puck and player tracking) to recreate the action on the ice as it is happening while featuring “Big City Greens” characters skating alongside animated versions of the NHL players. The real-time animation will be produced in association with ESPN Edge Innovation Center and NHL EDGE Innovation partners Verizon, Beyond Sports, and Silver Spoon.
The production is the latest example of sports broadcasters delivering a kid-friendly alternate presentation of a live game in an effort to attact younger audiences. For the past three years, CBS Sports and Nickelodeon have teamed up to produce a “Nick-fied” alternate broadcast of an NFL game with Nickelodeon-themed augmented reality graphics.
“Working with Disney Channel and the NHL, we are producing a telecast that will reach a new and different audience and help to grow hockey fandom even more,” says Ilan Ben-Hanan, SVP of Programming and Acquisitions, ESPN. “‘Big City Greens’ has a huge following in a younger audience that we are excited to tap into, offering a fun and creative way to enjoy the game across Disney platforms.”
“We’ve said from day one that our partnership with The Walt Disney Company is a big win for our fans and our League,” said Dave Lehanski, EVP of Business Development and Innovation, NHL. “We’ve spent years investing in a fast and accurate puck and player tracking system to help us grow the game. The ‘NHL Big City Greens Classic’ will demonstrate how we can leverage data from NHL EDGE — our puck and player tracking system — to create entirely new fan experiences for a younger audience in collaboration with incredible partners like The Walt Disney Company, ESPN and Beyond Sports. What a testament — to have the greatest animation company of all time leverage its incomparable creativity and IP to promote and grow our game.”
“Hockey is an incredibly exciting and animated sport, but we felt it wasn’t animated enough. We’re thrilled to be partnering with the NHL and ESPN to see the Greens lace up their skates and add a generous dash of ‘Big City Greens’ comedy to what is sure to be an entertaining game,” said “Big City Greens” creators and executive producers Shane and Chris Houghton.
ESPN commentators will call the action for the “NHL Big City Greens Classic,” and “Big City Greens” talent, including the Houghton brothers and Marieve Herington (the voice of Tilly), will also be featured in the presentation. More details regarding the first-of-its-kind production will be announced closer to the game.