Most TV studios operate at one of two extremes. They are either in large, dark cavernous spaces with sets littered around the edges to provide maximum flexibility and variety in shots, or they are surprisingly small, with just enough room for the anchor desk, cameras and crew. Rogers’ new Sportsnet Hockey Night in Canada set is neither.
Housed in a made-over 10th floor space in the CBC building — where the in-studio elements for Hockey Night in Canada used to be shot — the new $4.5-million set is a gleaming state-of-the-art studio that looks like something for which Starfleet might like a design credit.
There are nine distinct sets, with a main stage featuring a 3.3-by-11.6-metre ultra-high-resolution monitor nicknamed Goliath — claimed to be the largest ever used in a Canadian television studio. On the other side are two large studio pods like giant glass bubbles, where regional broadcasts will take place. There’s an interactive puck wall element, which, like something from a game show, lights up with stats for specific teams; a smaller studio to the side outfitted with red chairs for host George Stroumboulopoulos’s interview segments; and at the centre, a glass table for panel discussions with Rogers’ legion of hockey commentators.
“We need to tell stories in a variety of ways, and we wanted to get away from the traditional desk, where there are four people on it and they are all that you see. We have a dynamic place to work in. We have places to show and tell in a variety of different ways,” said Gord Cutler, Rogers’ senior vice-president of hockey production.
With so much hockey, including national broadcasts on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday nights, as well as regional rights for several teams, Cutler says the many sets are necessary to keep the product visually interesting throughout the many broadcasts.
New ways of visually presenting the game will include a new play-by-play camera that Cutler admits still needs some work, as well as a referee cam that might make its debut on NHL Game Centre Live, the company’s game streaming product.
The new set and broadcast team are set to debut on Wednesday, Oct. 8, with a Montreal-Toronto doubleheader followed by Vancouver at Calgary.
Along with unveiling new sets, Sportsnet executives talked about the company’s editorial vision, which will emphasize storytelling and a “stars first” policy, meaning it will focus on the NHL’s best-known players. To that end, the preview included a highlight reel with clips of features the production team is working on, offering high production values and a goodly share of weepy moments.
Asked if that means Rogers will shy away from some of the game’s uglier stories, Scott Moore, Rogers president of Sportsnet and NHL, said that’s not a concern.
“We’re partners, but we’re not cheerleaders. We have to cover the tough stories when they come up. But as partners and as good journalists, we’ll have to cover both sides. There has to be balance. We’ll be journalists and we won’t shy away from stories like concussions or franchise relocation; we have to do that,” said Moore. “But I believe that fans don’t want to hear about the business of sport every single Saturday night.”
Part of that “business” has been non-stop coverage over the past eight months of Rogers’ giant 12-year, $5.2-billion NHL deal.
The switchover is done. The sets are built. Now all that is left is for the games to begin and for us to see how it looks and plays out on our screens at home.