A year after the National Hockey League debuted a pre-game show on Facebook for the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, the league is bringing back “Stanley Cup Live” for this year’s championship round — adding Twitter to the distribution mix.
Starting on May 27, the NHL will live stream “Stanley Cup Live” on both Facebook and Twitter before each game of the Stanley Cup Final. In addition to streaming the show on Facebook and Twitter, the NHL has a sponsor for this year’s edition of “Stanley Cup Live.” New Amsterdam Vodka will sponsor the show to coincide with the brand signing in October 2018 to be the league’s official vodka sponsor. The show will feature cocktails made using New Amsterdam Vodka as well as the brand’s logo, according to Michael Sachs, director of marketing at New Amsterdam Spirits.
The livestream will largely center on Facebook to take advantage of the social network’s interactive features, but the league has opted to simulcast the show on Twitter in order to reach more people and push them to tune into the TV broadcast of games.
“We want to get this as far and wide as possible. Twitter is very much our most real-time platform,” said Sean Dennison, director of social media at the NHL. Both Facebook and Twitter are effective at reaching younger viewers and offer tools for the league to pay to promote the livestream to reach more viewers on the platforms, he said. Last year, 56% of “Stanley Cup Live” viewers were between the ages of 18 and 34 years old, according to an NHL spokesperson.
The NHL’s decision to simulcast “Stanley Cup Live” on Facebook and Twitter signals a level of parity between the two platforms’ livestreaming products but also indicates how they differ. While some publishers have seen live viewership on Facebook fall in the past year, sports organizations including Ironman, CrossFit and the World Surf League have adopted the platform to broadcast their competitions (CrossFit has since deleted its Facebook and Instagram accounts over Facebook’s data privacy issues). At the same time, Twitter, which had once streamed Thursday Night Football games, has signed deals with the NFL, the NBA and the MLS to stream live shows, and in some cases live games, on the platform. However, Facebook offers more tools for viewers to interact with a show during its broadcast, which is why the social platform remains the foundation of “Stanley Cup Live.”
“The thing that’s important about Facebook Live is its technology enables us to combine the live show with engagement elements,” said NHL CMO Heidi Browning.
During the livestream, viewers on Facebook will be able to participate in polls and leave questions in comments that the shows’ hosts and guests will answer on camera. Viewers on Twitter will be able to see those live poll results and comments within the stream but will not be able to participate, though they will be able to post comments that other viewers on Twitter will be able to see during the livestream. The Twitter stream “will be a bit more of a passive consumption, but it will still be entertainment,” said Dennison.
The show will feature its two hosts, former NHL player and Stanley Cup champion Adam Burish and NHL Network host Jackie Redmond, on location outside the site of each game interviewing celebrities and asking them questions submitted by fans. Episodes will air an hour and a half before each game starts and stream for at least 10 minutes, the minimum duration advised by Facebook. “That’s what they determined to be the primary length to build an audience,” said Dennison.
The NHL’s promotional plan for the show includes organic posts on Facebook and Twitter, posts that will be published to its website and an email that it will send to everyone in the league’s opt-in fan database, Browning said. The NHL and New Amsterdam Vodka will also publish posts to their respective Instagram accounts to promote the show, said Sachs.
To further build an audience for “Stanley Cup Live,” the NHL will produce videos between episodes that tie into the livestreams. For example, last year when one game was held in Las Vegas, livestream viewers were asked to vote on whether Burish and Redmond should crash a wedding or get married. Viewers picked the latter, and Burish and Redmond filmed a mock engagement proposal that was posted to Facebook before the next “Stanley Cup Live” episode. Across the live episodes and recorded videos that the NHL posted for “Stanley Cup Live” on Facebook last year, the NHL received 2.93 million views, according to Browning. The vast majority of episodes’ views occurred during the livestream, said the league spokesperson.
This article has been updated to reflect that CrossFit has deleted its Facebook and Instagram accounts.
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