Virtual advertisements could increase revenue for NHL

(Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)
(Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)

In the constantly growing market for in-game ad space, the NHL has begun to develop a revolutionary new system: dynamic dasherboards.

The NHL, in partnership with UK-based Supponor, is hoping to increase revenue for away broadcasts by offering ad space to local sponsors. Static dasherboard ads are virtually replaced on TV so viewers of away broadcasts see ads — often including animation — for their own local advertisers. The NHL will essentially be selling the same ad space twice.

The potential is limitless. In theory, dasherboard ads for local sponsors are wasted on fans watching the visiting team’s broadcast because they’re the wrong target market. A Dunkin Donuts ad in Madison Square Garden, for example, is wasted on a San Jose Sharks fan who doesn’t have access to the chain. With Supponor’s system on the Sharks broadcast, that Dunkin Donuts ad could be replaced on TV for an ad from a local sponsor, such as Krispy Kreme, without the fan being any the wiser.

(Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
(Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Using technology to differentiate broadcasts from in-game material isn’t new to sports. Sportvision revolutionized football broadcasts when it introduced 1st & Ten in 1998, the system that creates a stationary yellow first-down marker during broadcasts that can only be seen by TV audiences.


However, the story of Thought Development, Inc. reminds us to be wary of “too good to be true” technology. The Miami Beach-based company claimed it had developed a system to replace 1st & Ten with a laser that could be seen by players, spectators and TV audiences. After selling stock to vulnerable investors, the company was indicted for fraud by the SEC for claiming it had NFL support and omitting that fact that “laser technology posed a potential risk of blindness to players on the football field.

Whether Supponor’s system catches on in the NHL remains to be seen. Sponsors that buy static dasherboards will probably demand reduced rates if their advertising real estate is being replaced. And perhaps broadcasters will follow the NBA’s example and force dynamic dasherboard sponsors to buy separate advertising airtime as well. But if the NHL can generate serious revenue from dynamic ads, expect the other professional leagues to follow suit.

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