Continuing our look at how to enhance the fan experience for NHL fans, we move away from the arena experience, and focus on the at-home viewer. With just over 18,000 places for fans at the X, and millions of Wild fans around the state and across the globe, the at-home experience may be even more important than for those in attendance. Making fans that are not in the building feel like they are is something the NHL needs to focus on.
The league has experimented with different camera angles, trying an end boards shot while the puck is in an offensive zone, and even picture in picture type shots to show multiple angles at the same time. Still, nothing on TV compares to the experience of being in the building, watching the entire ice sheet, seeing a play develop. While this may be impossible with today's technology, there are still ways to enhance the TV experience.
Make the jump for the enhanced Game Center Live.
I know some of our readers are fans, so I will tread lightly here. I am not a fan of NASCAR. Not even a little. Mostly for the same reasons other people who aren't NASCAR fans aren't fans, so we'll save that for another day. The point here is that despite not being a fan, I can give credit to the way they cover their events. While watching on TV cannot compare to being there and smelling the exhaust, they do a great job of camera angles, access, and an overall presentation.
NASCAR offers what they call "Track Pass," which offers the chance to follow any of the 43 drivers like a stalker. In car audio, iso cams, constant on track position information, access into what the car and driver are doing at any given time.
It is along this line that the NHL should offer a package offering multiple views, inside audio, and content not available anywhere else. Partnering with current TV partners such as DirecTV, Comast, and Fox Sports, this type of service could easily be provided, with just a minor increase in the cost of the production of the television coverage, which could be off set with payments from a subscription fee.
Here is what the enhanced Game Center Live would offer:
Iso Cams for the Players - Players would be put on isolation cams, and those camera angles would follow that player everywhere they go, except when they leave the game. If Mikko Koivu is on the bench, you can watch him on the bench, get a sense of what it is he does while off the ice. Is he talking to coaches? Is he motivating his players? What happens off the ice is sometimes as important as what happens on it.
This type of player isolation would also give the at home fan a sense of what happens away from the puck. While FSN does a great job of making sure we know where the puck is and what is happening around it, what about the play away from the puck? The positioning, the player pinching, and all of sudden he is on screen with a nasty one timer. It would be nice to be able to see that play develop, and iso cams would accomplish that.
Mic'd Players with Real-Time Audio - This would be an amazing addition to the fan experience at home, something that would get people tuning in. Along with your iso cam, you would get what that player is saying at all times. What he is hearing on the ice, what he is chirping to the opposition.The sounds of the game are something the fans love, and this type of constant audio would provide a "real feel" experience.
All players would be mic'd, with different radio style channels available in a side bar to listen in. Even if the player did not have an iso cam on them, fans could still listen in as their favorite players communicate and talk trash on the ice.
Clearly there would need to be some disclaimers for language with this, and there may need to be a censor ready for when the team is going over strategy, so as to avoid opposing coaches from watching a feed in the press box and knowing what is going to happen next.
New Camera Angles - Add more cameras to the arena, giving multiple perspectives on the ice sheet. Cameras in the ice, in the boards, on the glass, above the ice sheet that are able to move, much like in the NFL coverage. All of these angles should be able to be accessed at any time, no matter what they are showing, without the filter of a producer and director to get in between the fan and the experience they want.
This is where the internet tie-in would come in. No TV carrier has enough channels available to dedicate a separate channel to each camera angle. However, the internet has no such limitation. Added to a Game Center Live type of package, the fan could control what their at home viewing experience is, rather than relying on a group of people in a control room to determine what is most important at any given time.
Split Screen Viewing - Much like the Red Zone Channel, or the coverage of PGA events and tennis on DirecTV, all of the main views, the iso cams, and the audio would be available on separate channels, with the ability to tune to a "multi-view" channel such as what we can currently do with Game Center Live. Have six to eight spots available, and feed iso cams, main views, goal cams, etc into your view. As you switch from one box to another, you would get the audio associated with it.
Imagine being able to have iso cams, with audio, on Koivu, Cullen, Burns, and Clutterbuck, all while having a main feed to watch the overall game action. Tell me that wouldn't heighten the feel of being there, or even being a part of the action.
Using technology already available, the NHL could offer at home fans a new experience, and an inside look into the game. Right now, while not at the game, we get the same type of game coverage that our fathers were watching in the 1970's and 80's, just in higher resolution. It is time to jump into the year 2010, and leverage the technology available to the league to provide an experience the fan cannot get anywhere else.
With a constant struggle to add new fans in United States, the NHL needs to change the way it is covering the game. After all, if you don't change anything, nothing will ever change.