August 30, 2010
Earlier this summer, we had a healthy discussion about what NHL Network is and what it should be, after NHL COO John Collins admitted that spirited "talk radio" debate isn't one of the network's aims. Its milquetoast nature also came up when we were dreaming about an NHL version of "Hard Knocks."
Next season, NHL Network still isn't going to be the edgy realm of hockey conjecture some of us wish it would become. But it is undergoing some big changes in production and philosophy that have us excited -- and we have the NFL to thank for them.
Sports Business Journal (sub. req.) reported Monday that Charles Coplin, formerly the vice president of programming at the NFL, has been recruited by Collins (a former NFL executive) to become the NHL's executive vice president of content. It's a massive gig that involves developing and managing relationships with local networks, managing content on NHL.com and other media platforms, as well as on NHL Network.
First big news: The NHL is taking over its own Network from CTV, and a new Hi-Def studio will be built in Toronto. Which is great news for anyone wondering why Kevin Weekes(notes) keeps appearing on a public access set five times a week to talk about the Predators.
Second big news: NHL Network is going to stop being a meandering home of highlight reels and random archival programming, and start becoming a place that breaks news and creates timely shows throughout the year. From SBJ:
Collins wants the NHL Network to replicate the news-gathering capabilities of NHL.com and hire talent that can be spread across all of the NHL's platforms. He also wants the league to begin producing more original programming that can be used on all of its platforms. He formerly worked at NFL Films during a time when it increased its original programming from 100 to 300-plus hours and he foresees the NHL making similar programming strides.
"When Brett Favre stubbed his toe, every media outlet covered it," Coplin said. "At NFL Network, we would cover stories and compete with the other guys. Here, on many days, we'll be the only ones doing the work. We have to make sure our fans trust us."
As we've said before: That trust only goes so far. NHL.com's writers are smart and insightful, but when it comes to League matters like discipline, labor issues and relocation (to name a few), fans still feel like they're dealing with state-controlled media. Adding contrarian voices and stories on NHL Network would elevate it above slick-looking propaganda, but that's not where they want to take it.
The original programming sounds awesome, however, if only because that ninth rerun of On The Fly can be a bit much.
One more media note this morning: Ken Fang has a piece on Press Coverage asking where the next generation of great announcers is for sports. We'd ask the same thing: Does there need to be a changing of the guard on NBC, VERSUS, TSN and CBC? What about on your local affiliates; should the old homers give way to the new breed? Which might be another way of asking how you feel about Doc Emrick ...