The National Hockey League (NHL) has a new look for the expanded 24-team Stanley Cup play-offs which started over the weekend.
The games, which are being played behind closed doors in Canada, feature brand new camera angles and other broadcast enhancements to take the viewing experience to another level.
Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena and Rogers Place in Edmonton are hosting all of the games over the next couple of months as the NHL strives to complete the 2019/20 season.
NBC and Sportsnet are using 32 cameras in each venue – 12 more than for a typical national broadcast – which are positioned to show new angles and capture more of the ice.
Both broadcasters are also using a JitaCam, which is a camera located on a sizeable 360-degree crane positioned over the ice.
All 24 participating teams have provided the NHL with audio unique to their home venues, including fan chants, music compilations and goal horns.
The NHL has also constructed a rink-wide stage covering empty seats behind the team benches that feature LED screens, monitors and banners.
Regional networks covering the qualifying games and the first round of play-off fixtures can virtually advertise on the glass behind each goal.
Steve Mayer, NHL senior executive vice president and chief content officer for events and entertainment, says that the new innovations should help to transform how the sport is viewed.
“It is our goal to be able to show a hockey game in a manner that shows off the speed and you feel like you’re part of the game,” he said. “You’re watching with the energy that sometimes doesn’t come from the play on the ice.
“We all want our game to translate better for television. We think that in this tournament, we are going to be able to accomplish that in even greater ways because of the way we can bring our fans right inside the game, down low, show the speed, hear the sounds.”
The NHL has also ramped up its offering on social media by collaborating with Twitter and Disney Streaming Services to show two-minute ‘live look-ins’ from play-off games.
Fans can vote via a Twitter poll for the games they want to be featured during an initiative that will run to the prestigious Stanley Cup series itself.
Twitter is streaming different segments of the game during the early play-off rounds, but will screen the last two minutes of the third period for the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final.
“Everything our fans do shows us they want to have deeper connections with the league and our teams,” said Heidi Browning, the NHL’s senior executive vice president and chief marketing officer.
“This exciting partnership provides the perfect platform to facilitate fan interaction and conversation, as well as drive broadcast tune-in.”
The new innovations paid immediate dividends for the NHL, with the prime time clash between the Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh averaging 1.572 million viewers.
That figure represented a 46 percent increase on the NHL regular-season average on NBC and made it the most-watched game of the 2019/20 season excluding the Winter Classic.
Viewership peaked at the start of overtime, with 2.057 million people tuning in to watch the Canadiens eventually secure a 3-2 victory.
The game between the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers earlier in the day attracted an average of 1.117 million viewers – a four percent rise on the season average.
The Blackhawks led for most of the match and eventually ran out 6-4 winners against the Oilers to boost their hopes of making it through to the next stage.