Disney-owned US sports broadcaster ESPN and the Disney Channel are collaborating with the National Hockey League (NHL) to produce the first-ever animated version of a live NHL hockey game as part of a move to make the sport more attractive to younger viewers.
The match between the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers on 14 March will be broadcast as it normally would on ESPN and ESPN+. But simultaneously on the Disney Channel, Disney XD cable outlets and the Disney+ streaming service, kids can tune into a programme called NHL Big City Greens Classic – an animated version of the same game, featuring characters from Disney’s Emmy Award-winning animated comedy Big City Greens.
Characters from the comedy will be seen skating alongside animated versions of the real NHL players, with the action following that of the live contest, making use of NHL technology. ESPN will use NHL Edge, a system of cameras and sensors that tracks the movement of players and pucks, collecting data on positioning, movement and speed.
The venture is part of Disney’s strategy of broadening the audience for ESPN’s live sports coverage to include more children and families. Viewers of Disney Channel are on average 30 years younger than the typical ESPN viewer, with consumption across an array of digital platforms.