NHL Net EP Mark Preisler on Why The New-Look Net Will “Give You a Reason to Pay Attention For Six Hours”

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.


5 Responses to NHL Net EP Mark Preisler on Why The New-Look Net Will “Give You a Reason to Pay Attention For Six Hours”

  1. Joel says:

    I think they should also focus on bringing the players home to the viewers. The NFL Network does a great job of this with their “Team Cam”. I think the NHL should so something similar on NHL Network.

    The studio would come more to life if the analysts could move around a bit. It gets stagnant watching them all sit around that small desk with their laptops cluttering the desk up the entire show every night.

    I sure hope the pre game concentrates on the “x’s and o’s” to a degree as well. For those of us who never had the opportunity to play in organized hockey it really helps to have a coach speak session which breaks down how a play developed. With a good hockey mind – there is almost always some additional insight I take away from these types of things. They shouldn’t be scared to really go into depth about what happened.

    Finally, I think the name “NHL on the Fly” really sucks.

    Anyhow, I watch it almost every night – especially during the playoffs. I have been tuning into Versus “Overtime” show a bit more often as some of the personalities there are good, the studio is better, and they do a much better job diagramming plays.

  2. leafsfan1967 says:

    Steve did you find out what their plans are for Hockey Night in Canada programming next year?

  3. Mike in Idaho says:

    Doh I didn’t have a chance to get questions in but if you talk to that guy again, my concerns with the NHL Network are the following:
    1. Shrink the size of their banner at the bottom of the screen, it is way too big.
    2. When they are showing late night reruns of games, don’t show the score of the game at the bottom of the screen in your rundown of scores.
    3. Keep the old way of highlights for On the Fly where they have the original announcers talking instead of having their own announcers talk over them.

    • John LA says:

      Yea, #3 is pretty much the other reason I stopped watching On the Fly…the main one being the Devils this year ‘(

  4. nosferatu says:

    Good stuff. I like that these look to be permanent changes rolling into next season. Granted, who knows if I’ll be able to watch in the fall at these times, but I like it in general. I would also like if they could simulcast another show at noon or earlier in the day–having NHL Live as an option mid-day was kind of cool–but as it is, it seems like Preisler’s got some good ideas to work with.

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