On October 3, 2022, the NHL announced it will be debuting digitally enhanced dasherboards (DED) for all games this season that will “erase and replace” the advertising found on arena rink boards with virtual ads on broadcasts. The DED system allows for the digital replacement of camera-visible arena dasherboards within local, national, and international NHL game broadcasts. While overlaying other advertisements on the boards will be the primary function, the DED system eventually will allow broadcasts to use the boards for everything from in-game stats to special effects for goal celebrations.
The NHL has partnered with Supponor to develop the DED technology solution, which uses remote, AI-based keying technology to program dasherboard advertising during game broadcasts by placing dynamic graphics over the camera-visible arena dasherboards. The DED technology will allow teams and local broadcasts to digitally replace the advertisements located on rink boards in arenas with ads targeted for their specific markets where the game is airing.For example, if you were at Capital One Arena watching the Capitals play the Flyers, you might see a Capital One advertisement on the rink board. But if you are watching the game on the local broadcast in Philadelphia, you might see a Wells Fargo ad in the same spot, while the local broadcast in D.C. might have a local sponsor. And if you were watching the national broadcast, you might see a McDonald’s ad.
In addition, the DED system has a significant impact on competition. In the past, competitors came into everyone’s market through the visible rink boards. For example, every time the Rangers played in Philadelphia, Chase Bank had to see Wells Fargo ads coming back into the New York market due it owning ad space on the rink boards. Now, thanks to the DED system, local sponsors will be able to control the market by purchasing as much ad space as it chooses when the local team is playing an away game. Theoretically, Chase Bank could purchase all adverting under the new DED system for the local New York broadcast, and those watching the local broadcast would only see Chase Bank ads. It remains to be seen whether this sort of advertising will raise any legal issues, however, for the time being it allows broadcasts to sell advertisements to the highest bidder, and the digital boards constantly change allowing the addition of more sponsors than in the past.
The DED system will also have a significant impact on the way sportsbooks advertise. It allows sportsbooks to target markets where betting is legal and they are licensed to operate, including international games where European sportsbooks will have a chance to get their ads on the boards too. Sportsbooks will be able to advertise “locally,” appearing on the boards for road games to the audience watching back in the home market. How will this work in practice? What if an advertisement for a sportsbook accidently leaked into a market where sports betting is illegal? Given how new the technology, it is possible there could be some technological difficulties as it gets put into use? Will the NHL have to set explicit rules to govern sportsbook advertisement through the DED system?
Overall, the DED system will revolutionize the way sponsors advertise through an NHL broadcast. There are endless possibilities that can develop from this new style of advertising. However, this new form of advertising my take some time to get used to. While there are several positives with this new system, there could also be unforeseen issues, given how new the technology is. It is possible there could be several legal issues that arise as a result of this system, which may require the NHL to set specific rules to govern the DED system. Regardless, this new system will be an adjustment for fans and it remains to be seen how receptive they will be to this new, never before seen change in NHL advertisement.
In terms of viewer experience, this is the Queen Mother of bad ideas. The clown who says this is the “new normal” may be all sorts of excited, but the new normal at my place is “NHL is unwatchable.” Off it went. I hated to do it, but I hated to try to watch it even more.