CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada Commits to Telling the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs Story

The 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs are under way, and, once again, CBC isn’t just ramping up its signature Hockey Night in Canada coverage. It’s letting hockey take over.

CBC television will be all about NHL Playoff hockey in April, May, and half of June.

“CBC television [basically] turns over the over-the-air network to NHL Playoff hockey for the months of April, May, and half of June,” says Trevor Pilling, head of CBC Sports Production. “That’s one of the ways that we’re unique: a conventional over-the-air broadcaster to just open up and [cover] that long playoff story is something that we’re known for.”

Now in its 59th season, CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada will provide comprehensive, multiplatform coverage of the first three rounds of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs and exclusive coverage of the Stanley Cup Finals.

“As a dedicated partner of the NHL, we are proud of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada’s long-standing tradition of providing Canadians with the most comprehensive Stanley Cup coverage available,” says Julie Bristow, executive director of studio and unscripted programming, CBC. “We are focused on continuing to elevate and innovate the way hockey fans everywhere view the game across all mediums.”

Ready for Action
In the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, CBC will cover four series. Because the network’s rights deal allows the network to make the first two series selections in the first round (before competing broadcaster TSN), CBC was able to secure both series with Canadian teams: Vancouver Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings, and Ottawa Senators vs. New York Rangers.

With less than a week between when playoff matchups are set (Saturday) and the first game of the playoffs (Wednesday), CBC ensured that trucks and crews were in position to be deployed as soon as the first-round schedule was known. As playoff scenarios continued to shift heading into Saturday, the CBC Sports staff spent the last few days of the regular season in scoreboard watching and contingency planning.

“We have people inside the operation who have crews built, [are] ready to assign airline tickets and book hotels, and have all that infrastructure ready to go and execute as soon as we know those final standings,” says Pilling. “That is one of the massive parts of the business: just moving crews and being reactive as series evolve.”

CBC’s mobile division, CBC Mobile Productions, will have HD units stationed in Eastern and Western Canada ready to react to various playoff scenarios. The network has tentative deals in place with mobile vendors on both sides of the border for future rounds, as well as with American broadcasters who would travel north should either Canadian team advance.

Ramping Up Replay
CBC will add Inertia Unlimited v642 X-mo cameras to its postseason complement and plans to ramp up use of the Liberovision 3D replay system. First used during last year’s playoffs, CBC added Liberovision to the Hockey Night in Canada regular-season complement and continues to find new uses for technology.

“Being able to blend the multiple angles is not only cool to watch, but it also is a great way to help explain the game in a way that is appealing to both the casual and the super fan,” says Pilling. Isolated camera views are sent during commercial breaks to CBC’s control center in Toronto, where they are manipulated and sequenced and either rolled out at intermission or fed back to the truck.

As the Stanley Cup Playoffs progress, CBC will roll out additional isolation cameras and EVS replay servers. For the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final, CBC will take its Hockey Night in Canada studio set on the road, broadcasting the intermission reports from the venues themselves rather than from its Toronto headquarters.

Revamping Second-Screen
CBC has unveiled an updated second-screen experience to complement the linear broadcast and enhance fan engagement throughout the postseason. In addition to live streaming of every game, CBC.ca will feature Hockey Night Playoff Pulse, which will comprise in-game polls, pools, and live updated leaderboards showing top scores and rankings.

CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada app for iPhone and iPad will further complement live streaming, with news and notes from each series delivered to mobile devices, along with in-depth playoff blogs, scores, video highlights, statistics, and schedules.

New this season, near-live three-minute highlight packs from each game will be available online and on mobile devices, including tablets, with game recaps going to Xbox.

The mobile application is available for free, with an additional pay element.

Previewing Playoffs
On Tuesday, CBC premiered Stanley Cup Countdown, a live playoff-preview show. In order to broadcast live to Canada’s five time zones, CBC broadcast two versions of the program: one tailored to a western audience, the other to an eastern once.

In preparation for Hockey Night in Canada’s 60th anniversary next season, CBC will present It Happened in Hockey Night between the second and third rounds of the playoffs. The 30-minute program will present the top 10 moments in Hockey Night in Canada history, as voted on by viewers.

Telling the Story
Although CBC would certainly love a Vancouver-Ottawa Stanley Cup Final, the network is dedicated to covering every team in the playoffs equally to tell the overall story of the postseason.

“Our audience cares about all of the clubs,” says Pilling. “There [are] Canadian players on all of the clubs, and all of those series contribute equally to the overall story. That said, we tailor our coverage somewhat to the stories that we feel [Canadians are] going to be most interested in. You’re always evaluating what you think your audience is going to be most interested in, and that gets more emphasis than some other stories, but telling the overall league story is very important.”