Now I like sports as much as the next guy or girl, but there are some folks and you know who you are, that absolutely cannot live without having access to a steady fix of hockey games, either on TV or on the web. For you rabid hockey fans the National Hockey League has created GameCenter Live -- the League's Web- and subscription-based service that provides coverage of out-of-market games on a nightly basis. You don't just watch a game (or four of them, at the same time); you follow real-time stats, shot analysis, dial up video highlight clips and chat with fans around the world.
There's plenty that dazzles the eye on GameCenter Live, but its most important aspect is something less observable and more implicit: that the way games are being presented on NHL.com today could be the groundwork for how they're presented on television in the future.
The NHL has streamed games online for the last few seasons. In the past, they were an online component of Center Ice, the League's successful subscription service on cable and satellite.
GameCenter Live is a next generation upgrade that has transformed the digital viewing experience. Fans have the ability to watch up to four games at once. The audio options range from television calls to radio voices. There are detailed real-time stats, including ice time. Text-based play-by-play is offered, with on-demand video highlights of goals. A rather addictive shot-tracker allows the viewer to assess the quality of offensive chances. Finally, the GameCenter chat allows for running commentary from around the world, although much of it is reduced to trash talk.
This immersive experience has produced some blockbuster numbers for the NHL, which reports that subscriptions for GameCenter Live are 231 percent up from last year.
We have yet to see if the total immersion experience is the wave of the future for television, but for now, it's definitely changing the way puckheads are able to experience hockey on the Web; even if the flow of information can be delightfully overwhelming.