Reality NHL TV: Creating a connection with casual fans
Let’s hold off the hockey talk for a second and take a good look at the NFL and television. If there is one league in North America that understands the effect television coverage has on the bottom line and it’s ability to print money, it has to be the NFL. (If you thought you’d learn about a certain quarterback who should have retired years ago who apparently likes to open up the tool box to share his tool with people, my profuse apologies).
To back up this outlandish claim, I provide three exhibits and theme music:
- National television revenue coming in from four major US networks (FOX, CBS, NBC, & ESPN) to the tune of $2.2B (give or take a few hundred million) – approximately double the combined US television revenue of Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League combined ($1.09B).
- Nearly every football game is available on network television within the local market. Unless you’re looking to watch every Bengals malfunction while you happen to live in Seattle, you have no need for anything more than a pair of “digital” rabbit ears.
- And then there is NFL Films and by extension, the NFL Network. Owned and operated by the league, it gives the football addict access to everything one would want from football (including coverage of the CFL down south). Oh, and epic theme music.
Now before you run for the door, there is a connection to hockey. How many of you watched 24/7 on HBO Canada (or elsewhere for that matter)? Sorry, it’s hard to count the number of hands – yes, it’s that many. Now consider the number of people who watch the NFL on non-game days and throughout the off-season. Yes, it’s that many more.
There are those that would consider the NHL has led the professional sports leagues when it comes to embracing modern media, but the good fan knows that nothing can beat getting your product on the national and/or local television markets (just ask Rocky Wirtz). And it’s that kind of rebirth that I think can help the NHL discover the fickle market of the US hockey fan.
Now I know a few of you were non-committal to the whole idea of unfettered access to a professional sports dressing room, so why not take a peak at 24/7 and what the two teams thought of their growing rivalry?
Compelling, ain’t it? Now imagine if something like this was done on a more regular basis? Maybe it doesn’t need to be as up-to-date as 24/7 was on a weekly basis, but imagine if all the teams were the focus of a few episodes? And if you don’t think this is possible, why not take a look at what TSN and the Edmonton Oilers have been doing with Oil Change (and even better, a Canucks themed Oil Change):
Now I’m no fan of the Oil. I never have been, and likely never will be. But I give them some credit that as an organization, they have bought into this concept in what’s turning out to be a tough season. And in the spirit of disclosure, I have to concede that I haven’t seen much of Oil Change as I thought it was simply an hour long special outlining the process the Oilers used to determine their strategy during the NHL Entry Draft. But having caught a few of the episodes on NHL.com, I’ve got to say that I’m nearly hooked.
It’s not that I really care about what these three teams (Penguins, Capitals and Oilers) have been up to. Nor am I the type of guy that wants to absorb every little tidbit of information or understand each and every statistic that’s bandied about during either. I just find the fact that we get to see these heroes… role models… hockey players in a regular light. Until now, we understand that NHL players are normal guys who are paid to play a game that many would otherwise play for free, but what we know beyond that is grey. And as fans, I think it’s fair to say that having seen both 24/7 and Oil Change, we too often place far too much weight on the shoulders on what are just average guys who happen to be above-average in a sport we follow.
Yet, we do follow and will continue to do so. But if all it takes is a TV for the regular sports fan who doesn’t understand hockey that well to come on board, I say “why not?” Yes, it will be raw. Yes, we’ll see some emotion that we may not always see during a game. Yes, we’ll likely hear and see things that may cause us to grimace, wince, or even turn away. But it’s that overly compelling connection that we’ll establish with the sport that will help it continue to be successful.
And yes, there will likely be some colourful language. I don’t know what to say about that. So I’ll leave it with NFL Films Presents to discuss further: