|(Credit: Texas Stars)|
“The contract with Neulion was up at the end of the past season,” said Chaimovitch when reached via phone late last week. “We owed it to our stakeholders, the fans and teams, regardless of the perception of the product, to take a step back. There have been quality improvements, but it’s essentially been the same product for ten years. What do we want the product to be?”
Around this time last year, the AHL put together a group of about a dozen senior executives from teams across the league along with representatives from the league offices itself to explore a new video streaming platform. The group sat down to hammer out the most important aspects to consider in making the transition, settling on four.
- Video quality: “In 2008, the thought process was, ‘How do we get our games on a video internet stream?’ What worked in 2008 wasn’t going to be what worked in 2018.”
- Price point: “We all recognized that. The prices were set as they were ten years ago, and there wasn’t a lot of flexibility on our part to set it.”
- Multiplatform: “Games aren’t being consumed just on your computer.“
- Customer service: “We got feedback on dealing with problems on game nights. We need the infrastructure from our partner to handle that.”
Making the decision to go with Hockeytech midseason gave the league a chance to test their technology with live games.
“We actually used the Calder Cup Finals as a test run internally to make sure. Otherwise we would be stuck waiting until opening night. We were able to test the feeds from Toronto and Texas, the integration of LeagueStat, and the cutting of video highlights to share inside of AHL TV.”
While the “proof will be in the pudding” for Chaimovitch and his team, the league has been working with each of the 31 teams to ensure buy-in from everyone from camera operators to video board operators.
“We’re making a real concerted effort with the new platform to make sure the teams are bought into it. They’re not just going to throw up whatever’s on the video board.”
Chaimovitch is most excited about the new ViPr view, which will be offered in addition to the regular game feed. ViPr offers a panoramic, 360-degree view of the ice that fans can pan, tilt and zoom on using their phones. It’s like you’re sitting in the jumbotron and moving your head around to watch the play as you move your phone. One really interesting aspect of this feature is the ability to look at things that aren’t on the regular feed. Fans, and importantly scouts and coaching staff, can look behind the play to see what’s going on just off camera. They can look at the bench to see what the coaches are doing. They can look back at the crease to see if their club has pulled the goalie late for an extra attacker.
“With ViPr, you can essentially become the director of the game.”
Chaimovitch is nervous for opening night but is very encouraged by the positive fan response so far to the changes. With price point and quality improvements, more eyeballs could be tuning in to watch the AHL than ever before.