HNIC is back and seeking sponsors for vignettes, pool » Media in Canada

HNIC is back and seeking sponsors for vignettes, pool

Holy puck! Hockey's back and for many, none too soon. The CBC's Hockey Night in Canada returns to TV screens with a vengeance on Saturday, Oct. 8. More games will be offered in high-definition this year, promises Joel Darling, executive producer of the show, though he says plans for how many and which games are yet to be determined.

New this year is the addition of long-time hockey announcer Jim Hughson. He will call the second game during Saturday night double headers. Also new this year for the long-standing brand is a two-years-in-the-making project entitled Think Hockey.

Holy puck! Hockey’s back and for many, none too soon. The CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada returns to TV screens with a vengeance on Saturday, Oct. 8. More games will be offered in high-definition this year, promises Joel Darling, executive producer of the show, though he says plans for how many and which games are yet to be determined.

New this year is the addition of long-time hockey announcer Jim Hughson. He will call the second game during Saturday night double headers. Also new this year for the long-standing brand is a two-years-in-the-making project entitled Think Hockey.

A series of vignettes running from 90 seconds to three minutes, Think Hockey is slated to air every Saturday night of the season during the pre-game show as well as during the window between Game One and Game Two. Hockey hellcats such as Wendel Clark and Ryan Wilson among others were asked to contribute to the project as part of a cross-country, league-agnostic advisory panel.

‘This is a feature focusing on skill development,’ explains Darling. ‘It’s aimed at everyone from kids to coaches to beer league guys. It’s basically about how to build a better hockey player. We have 120 feature ideas, such as how to shoot a puck or off-ice training.’

Darling says: ‘There’s a real opportunity to brand this feature. And since we’re shooting a lot of it inside an arena, we’re looking to brand the ice and the boards with a sponsor.’

Think Hockey begins shooting at the end of August.

Another new feature to the Hockey Night brand is a Fantasy Hockey Pool. Darling explains that this is an online pool on cbc.ca, where folks pick their teams for weekly and grand prizes. The producers are looking for a way to drive this on-air.

‘Sales is working on securing sponsorships for this now. Pools are very popular and this is the first time we’re doing one for the regular season.’

Overall, the CBC execs are confident that ratings for hockey haven’t slipped and that fans will come back because of – if anything – the curiosity factor.

But what of advertisers?

During yesterday’s conference call, the mood was merry.

‘Yes, they’re back,’ confirmed both Darling and Renée Bertrand, executive director of media sales. ‘We have over 12 returning sponsors confirmed and demand is just as strong as last year.’

Bertrand denied that the brand is discounting ad spots to woo advertisers. He claims that because there’s been such high interest, they’ve had no need to do that.

‘We’re very much in a demand situation,’ he says.