NHL, HBO Team Up for Reality Series


Entering the final season of its television rights deals with NBC and Versus, the National Hockey League made an aggressive move today by announcing a deal with HBO. The pact includes an in-season, all-access, behind-the-scenes series that will follow the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals for four weeks, leading up to the NHL Winter Classic game on New Year's Day between the two teams.

The series will be part of HBO's 24/7 reality franchise, which had previously ventured into  sports such as boxing and auto racing, and will take on the tone of HBO's much-talked-about NFL series Hard Knocks.

The NHL is hoping that the series will expose the league and its players to a new audience. The series will follow two of the league's better teams that feature the league's two best players—Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals and Sidney Crosby of the Penguins.

"We want to continue to expose our players and the game to as big an audience as possible," said John Collins, chief operating officer of the NHL, who put the deal together with Ross Greenburg, president HBO Sports. "We're hoping to reach an audience we don't typically reach. An audience beyond just hockey fans." And Greenberg believes the series will do just that. "We believe people who don't watch NHL hockey right now will gravitate to this show."

The series will be televised each Wednesday for four weeks, beginning Dec. 15 at 10 p.m., with a immediate repeat at 11 p.m., much like HBO's Hard Knocks. (Earlier this year, the latter followed the NFL's New York Jets in preseason).

But for the first time, the series will follow professional sports teams from the inside during the regular season, something which Greenburg doesn't believe any of the other major sports team owners or leagues would allow.

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