NHL Net EP Mark Preisler on Why The New-Look Net Will “Give You a Reason to Pay Attention For Six Hours”
April 13, 2011 5 Comments
After I finished my conversation with NHL Network executive producer Mark Preisler on Tuesday afternoon, he said, “Well, you’re a fan, you watch all the time, what do you like and what don’t you like?” I was surprised, but I told him that I liked the personalities and that it is always on, but I felt the graphics could use an improvement, and that the network could serve more of a presence than just reruns of classic games in the summertime, especially when there was controversy the magnitude of Ilya Kovalchuk’s endless contract dispute.
It’s a question I asked him at the start of the conversation, as Preisler felt – coming from a decade of experience as an EP at SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight - that the network had upside, but “needed some tweaking.” I think most hockey fans would agree, that while it is great that the NHL Network exists and is on live for quite a few hours each day with NHL Live and On the Fly, that it can sometimes come up a little short, with a lack of a pre-game show, and a times being a bit dull.
That all changes starting today. NHL Live moves from Noon ET to 4PM ET (a permanent timeslot that will continue into next season) as a lead-in for the new, pre-game edition of On the Fly (also something that will return next season). It very much will be a lead-in, too, as Preisler kept reminding me that the network will be live from 4PM ET to 1AM ET every weeknight of the post-season. Oh, and yes, the graphics are getting a revamp, starting today.
As for NHL Live, the radio show will become more of a television show in it’s new timeslot, which was chosen to get “a lot more eyeballs on it” according to Preisler “it seemed like the perfect jumping-off point to our network live, starting at 4 o’clock.” As far as LIVE becoming more of a television show, he said it would also “make it a better radio show, content-wise.” He said they’ll look at “keeping interviews tighter, getting more interviews in that time slot.” The show will also feature b-roll and the aforementioned new graphics.
Getting NHL On the Fly as a pre-game show was important to the NHL Network for two reasons: taking advantage of a valuable timeslot and attracting hockey fans who weren’t necessary interested in local pre-game coverage. “It was kind of a no-brainer. If I’m a Capitals fan, I can likely get what I want from Comcast, but they’re only going to concentrate on the Capitals. If you’re a hockey fan, we’re going to concentrate on every series.”
The network looks to complement the efforts of VERSUS, TSN and CBC during the post-season, but is by no means ancillary programming. “We want our shows to stand out. I think we’ll be able to go a little more in depth than some of our other partners. I see us working with them. For instance, we’re going to team up with TSN and our partners to try and share some resources as well.” To him, the thing that makes these shows watch-able is to not have it as background noise, but “as a place where you can get from solid information. If we give you a reason to pay attention for six hours, then we’re doing our job.”
The network will also utilize NHL.com for stories, as teams of reporters from the website will be at game sites throughout the playoffs, though NHL Network itself will not have a presence at every site until the Conference Final. “That has been one of my main goals since we got here,” says Preisler “NHL.com’s a fantastic site for our fans, they have terrific content and a lot of their content, we should be utilizing. If we have a reporter in an arena, we should be utilizing them.”
Finally, it’s important to Preisler that NHL Network, despite being league-run, doesn’t have to answer to the league as far as breaking news, noting that the NHL Net intends to hire it’s own insider to complement the additional work Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger do for the network. “That’s huge, that’s the only way we can function, to be honest with you. Its the only way to be a legitimate television network.” With Preisler at the helm, the smart money says that NHL Network starts looking completely legitimate in the eyes of hardcore hockey fans, and soon.