If the Toronto Maple Leafs had a Stanley Cup for every proposal to improve hockey coverage on television, there’d be no shortage of happiness in the Christensen household.
Sadly, “my” Leafs have been in a Cup drought for – well, let’s just say it’s been since before I was born. This spring was another heartbreaker. So once again I’m spending the Stanley Cup playoffs pondering how hockey and TV can work together to build better viewing experiences.
Over the years, there has been a rinkful of ideas proposed to make game telecasts more compelling for all parties. From the glowing puck of the 1990s to in-arena tracking systems, the NHL and its media partners have invested in technologies – often with mixed results. There have also been calls for telecasters to build on innovations that have been implemented in telecasts of other sports. We are at an incredibly exciting point of time right now for sports fans: for the first time we can actually move from “one size fits all” broadcasts to personalized streams and experiences that are cloud-based.
As one who still plays the game recreationally and now owns part of the Junior A Oakville Blades team, I can tell you that the biggest issue in hockey coverage is the difficulty of conveying the intensity of the on-ice action to the TV screen. While wide-angle shots give the best views of how a game is developing, they fail to capture the speed of the game, how narrow the lanes are, how impossibly little open net there is behind the goalies, the crunch of bodies into the boards and the one-on-one ferocity that makes the game so exciting.
This is my time so I won’t talk about how the shift to cloud-native OTT streaming platforms can deliver more of the highlights or the social nuggets that engage my son or my daughter – they can write their own blogs. As for me, my interest waxes and wanes depending on the nature of the game: What teams are playing? Are the Maple Leafs involved? Is it a game that has a lot riding on the outcome? With that in mind, here’s what I’d like hockey on TV to look like:
- Focus on the game – I’m a bit of a purist. When I’m fully invested in a game, I want to watch it on my terms – without split screens, picture-in-picture, graphic overlays, and any other bells and whistles. Alert me when there’s something I need to know , but otherwise give me the tools I need to click to highlights, replays or statistics and let me pick the time and the context for viewing them.
- Lower camera angles – The default camera locations are higher in the stands, making it hard to appreciate on TV how tight the corners are and how fast the game is. How about leveraging 5G for high-resolution cameras and audio at rinkside and on players that immerse the viewers in experiences that emulate the best seats in the house? Even better, letting me watch the game from the vantage point of my team’s bench.
- Beefed-up alerts – There are often games I want to follow, even when I am not at my big-screen TV. I can get push alerts on my mobile device, but why can’t we go the extra mile and include the key video highlights? Matthews scored? Let me see how he did it, rather than simply feeding me the data.
- Wagering – Not every game commands my full attention, but that can change when there’s a little money riding on the Maple Leafs, or any other team for that matter. Betting via the TV can make every moment of every game important, regardless of fan loyalties or the score.
These ideas are just the tip of the iceberg of possibilities. Leveraging the power of the cloud and television production technology innovation, the possibilities for transforming the nature of hockey telecasts are seemingly endless.
But who am I kidding? For me there’s only one technology innovation worth considering:
Anything that helps the Maple Leafs finally win the Stanley Cup.