Hockey Night in Canada rolls out anniversary season

The pubcaster will introduce a new second-screen experience sponsored by Budweiser to engage fans as the 60th season of the NHL double-header returns to air.

As the 60th season of HNIC debuts after the end of the NHL players lockout, the CBC has added a new sponsor to the mix in Budweiser. The beer brand joins HNIC  as the presenting sponsor of Coach’s Corner, starring Don Cherry, as well as the presenting sponsor of the new second screen experience app, available on and through mobile devices, that allows viewers to interact with the game, the TV show and fellow fans countrywide.

Alan Dark, general manager, CBC Revenue Group, tells MiC that, while the lockout did result in the loss of Kraft Hockeyville as a sponsor due to timeline constraints, the CBC had secured all of its deals prior to the lockout, and was simply waiting for hockey to return so it could start rolling out its sponsorship activations.

Returning to the fold for 2013 is long-time sponsor Scotiabank, which will continue its role as the presenting sponsor of the HNIC pregame show, Hockey Tonight, as well as Hockey Day in Canada, slated to take place in Peterborough Feb. 9. Joining it are other longtime sponsors, including GM, which is the presenting sponsor of the Chevrolet iDesk, and Kia, which sponsors HNIC’s fantasy sports pool and is offering a grand prize of a 2014 Kia Sorento EX-V6.

Hyundai is also back with the third season of Hyundai Hockey nation, which will kick off in Halifax Feb. 1 and offer coaches symposiums in nine markets across Canada, followed by on- and off-ice training programs for young hockey players.

While the lockout did change the CBC’s plans to launch the 60th anniversary with a Boston-Toronto game (the first match ever carried by the program), Dark says its plans to celebrate have been largely unaffected by the lockout.

As part of the celebration, Dark says the CBC will be hosting an ongoing concert series throughout the regular season, that begins tomorrow at the Bell Centre with a performance by Simple Plan. While details and dates for other concerts are still being worked out, Dark adds that CBC is looking for partners for the series.

Sponsorship opportunities are also still available for the post-season, he says, noting that the CBC will work with any new sponsors to create custom sponsorship deals that are relevant to the brand.

For the CBC’s Julie Bristow, getting Hockey Night in Canada with live games back on air this weekend after a long-delayed start to the NHL season calls for getting a new broadcast team to reach out to viewers via social media.

“All of these guys and girls have been constantly engaged on Twitter with their fans,” Bristow, executive director of studio and unscripted programming at the CBC, said ahead of this Saturday night’s opening triple-header for HNIC.

And long-time HNIC host Ron MacLean will be joined at the anchor desk by Glenn Healy, P.J. Stock, Kevin Weekes, Elliotte Friedman with Andi Petrillo.

Bristow welcomed Petrillo as the first full-time female HNIC in-studio personality.

And Don Cherry will double-shift on the Saturday night broadcast, doing his Coach’s Corner gig during the first intermission of both games, the first at 7 p.m. and the second at 10 p.m.

“Don Cherry is going to come into the late night game. He’s iconic,” Bristow says of the return of the popular and often controversial hockey pundit.

There’s relief at the CBC with the return of HNIC, which brings back much-needed ad revenue to the pubcaster’s coffers.

“We hope the viewers will tune in. The next couple of days are about getting the word about the schedule of events and the games,” Bristow explained.

The return of the popular NHL double-header Saturday nights also gives the CBC a chance to promote the rest of its primetime schedule.

“Hockey gives us an opportunity to speak to a million viewers on a Saturday night. It definitely gives us a platform to attract audiences to the other programming we have,” Bristow said.

With files from Jordan Twiss