NHL to Launch Original Video Portal

“Hockey is very popular at the local level, but what we’re trying to do is build a bigger national footprint,” the NHL’s Andre Mika told us this morning. Without extensive national television coverage, he said, “We tend to think that digital is our front door.” Enter an online video portal that caters to avid fans, launching this week.

Mika, a former television director and producer, was hired last August as the league’s VP of broadband and new media. He has put together an eight-person original content team in Manhattan, set to deliver two hours of hockey highlights and commentary per day in the form of The Hockey Show: presented by Bud Light, and live coverage from press conferences and game-day warmups on LiveWire: presented by Cisco.

So yes, the NHL has secured sponsorship for this content, which is to launch on Wednesday with a new portal built by NeuLion called The NHL Network Online. Mika said he hoped additional sponsors would be added in the next two days.

The portal has a searchable archive of footage dating back 2.5 years, so users can, for instance, find clips of every goal scored by their favorite player, said Mika. Everything is embeddable and can be played full-screen.

Coming this fall is a full relaunch of NHL.com that will expand the archives, add user-generated content, and personalized video channels.

Live-streaming of full games isn’t a part of the site; for that you’ll have to pay to join NHL Center Ice Online, a separate portal. The live game pricing varies by date; currently it’s $59 for the rest of the season. The navigation between these things is somewhat awkward, but I assume that will be smoothed out for the NHL.com fall relaunch.

The Hockey Show (embedded above) will be a 10- to 15-minute daily production released at 11:30 ET. “There will be a webified feel to the content, not like TV,” said Mika, who explained that meant it would be shot tighter, with edgier graphics and content. “We can get away with things online that we can’t get away with on television,” was how he put it. The show will be syndicated to Hulu, and eventually elsewhere. The NHL already posts post-game content to YouTube, Joost, and iTunes.

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