Now that ESPN has the NHL back, it plans to give viewers a more up-close view of the action than ever before.
Disney’s ABC/ESPN is paying $400 million annually to serve as the NHL’s lead TV partner while Turner Sports is paying $225 million for the league’s “B” package.
Starting Tuesday, ESPN tells FOS that it will employ new on-ice and locker room cameras — as well as access to the replay room at headquarters — to give viewers an inside-out-view of hockey.
Here’s what else the network tells FOS its planning for its first NHL coverage in 17 years:
- On-ice cameras: ESPN will send camera operators on ice during shootouts and commercial breaks. “It gives you a perspective of the size of the players,” said Mark Gross, ESPN’s senior vice president, production and remote events. “And it gets viewers on the ice.”
- Situation Room: ESPN will place a camera in the replay room in Toronto and use ex-ref Dave Jackson as analyst. “It will provide such great context on what is being reviewed — and why it’s being reviewed,” Gross said.
- Locker room access: ESPN will mic up some coaches during pregame speeches. Players will also be mic’d up in warm-ups.
- Puck tracking: ESPN will utilize new technology to highlight puck and player movement.
Hockey’s arguably the best sport to watch in person, said Gross. ESPN wants to capture that speed and excitement for TV viewers.
“If a fan’s fortunate enough to go to an NHL game in person, it’s an incredible experience. We want the experience to be just as good at home,” said Gross. “Hearing a pregame speech from a coach? They’re not getting that in the arena. But you’re getting that if you’re watching the game on one of our networks.”
Those agreements with ESPN and Turner ended NBC Sports’ 16-year run as the NHL’s exclusive broadcaster in the U.S. NBC previously paid the NHL $250 million a year for rights.
Starting with the season-opening doubleheader Tuesday, Disney’s ESPN, ESPN+ Hulu will show three games exclusively during opening week.