Bringing the EIHL to the Small Screen
The return of the Elite League to our TV screens has proved popular amongst British hockey fans.
Whilst some debated the impact the EIHL’s show on Sky Sports had, it didn’t stop 247.tv and Premier Sports from looking to expand the coverage of ice hockey on British television.
But what goes in to bringing the EIHL to the small screen? I asked 247.tv’s Head of Production Adrian Battersby how they became involved, and what goes in to each broadcast.
Adrian and his team film and produce the new Elite League Show on Premier Sports eeach week, and I started by asking him how they became involved in the programme
“Of course we knew Premier Sports love hockey, with their long standing coverage of the NHL, and I believe they’ve always been interested in the British scene – from coverage of Team GB last year, where Aaron Murphy made his debut as part of their commentary team, to the domestic game.”
“It was hugely disappointing for me to see how the EIHL was being treated, and I don’t believe the highlights show was really even being watched by people inside the game – so there was little chance new fans would watch.” Adrian told me, and with the deal with Sky coming to an end, the opportunity for a fresh start was there for the taking.
“Once it was clear that the Sky coverage was at an end, I knew Premier would really want to jump in and wanted to get some cracking local action for the EIHL fans to see. We were always keen to be involved and I felt we would be able to offer something more than just the usual bog-standard productions.”
Already familiar with the sport, Battersby hoped the passion of British fans would help set the EIHL apart on our screens, a sentiment he feels Premier shared with he and his team.
“I’ve watched a lot of NHL games, and the fans can be pretty quiet at times. I think Premier saw a real opportunity to make a major move here. I know American crowds like to sit in their seats, with their popcorn and so forth, but the atmosphere that you get at EIHL matches was something that I felt was much better than some NHL matches, having experienced it at a number of games, including a play-off finals, when I was younger.”
Working with host Aaron Murphy, the show has received praise from many fans across the British game and Adrian was quick to praise the Canadian’s input.
“Aaron was an inspired selection by Premier, and his knowledge and professionalism is a joy to work with. I’ve worked with a lot of presenters over the years, but ‘Murph’ is as nice a guy that you’ll meet and has no arrogance about how he looks on screen or his image; he simply wants to present the best show possible. Even now we are still talking almost daily about improvements and ideas.”
As with so may things in the British game, Adrian and his team work to a tight budget – but he is hopeful the shows popularity will grow, and afford them more flexibility as time progresses.
“The budget is obviously tight for these productions – but as more people subscribe to watch the EIHL, we might get closer to the 30 cameras (or more) that they have on NHL productions!”
“I think we still make the show look great for the number of cameras that we have (currently 8), and we are always looking at ways of adding more.”
“One thing I’m really proud of is that all our matches sound fantastic as we really wanted the skating, the on ice sound and the atmosphere in the crowd to come across on the show. I think only Sheffield truly surprised us, with their DJ’s going past 11!”
I asked Adrian what preparation and work goes in to a typical broadcast, and how he and his team handle the logistics of covering a league with teams spread across the United Kingdom
“Preparation wise – well I cannot give away trade secrets, but we get a lot of statistics and info sent to us from our friends up in Braehead, Ronnie and Jim, who both send us lots of great info. Paul Wheeler in Coventry also gives us the top news stories from the week, which we try to get into our shows as much as we can.”
Preparations for the live show extend beyond pulling together the weeks news and up to date statistics however, with Adrian racking up some serious miles last year – as well as the work that goes in to each Saturdays show.
“I spent some time going around all the grounds a few months ago – and we start rigging on the Friday of a match. The rest of the crew arrive on the Saturday morning, and every match day is a VERY long day! Especially if we cover a game in Scotland, as many of our crew have young families at home and so we make the effort to come back that night.”
“Trips home from Glasgow and Fife have seen us roll in to bed at 5.30am, which does sort of destroy us on the following day. A few crew are sensible, and stay on site when covering games in Scotland, so they can pack up and come home on the Sunday.”
With the support network they have built up, and the on ice action, the 247.tv team feel they’ve filled the slot Premier opened up for the Elite League Show with ease.
“I do think it’s good that we are packing in the material and manage to fill a 3.5 hour show without any trouble whatsoever.”
What does the future hold for the show? Adrian is hoping that things will continue to progress, and perhaps even expand.
“Well, we keep trying to improve and add further features. Maybe even a midweek show with a round up of the weeks action – as highlights don’t have to be on the Saturday before the live match. Perhaps we’ll even get to show two matches per week, or possibly a Friday game instead of Saturday.”
“All those decisions are down to the people who run Premier Sports and the EIHL though, and the decisions are simple based on subscriptions. If more people subscribe to the channel, listing EIHL as ‘their sport’, then Premier will hopefully realise they are onto something and will look to feed more action.”
“I know personally, as a hockey fan, I have thoroughly enjoyed every single match, so I think we must be doing ok at the moment. Of course there is that old cliche that if you stand still then you aren’t going forward.”
Hopefully Adrian, 247.tv and the EIHL can build on the solid foundations they seem to be laying on Premier Sports, and the popularity of the league, and the sport, within the UK can grow.
Thanks to Adrian for his time. You can find out more about 247.tv and their work at www.247.tv