Epix, NHL Offer Free Digital Access to 'Road to Winter Classic' #NextTV

When Epix drops the puck on its Road to the Winter Classic programming next month, the premium programmer and the National Hockey League will open their net to fans by making the series available on a number of websites and digital platforms.

The four-part series, chronicling the Chicago Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals as they get ready for the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day at Nationals Park in DC, will make its linear bow on Dec. 16 and also be available to non-authenticated subscribers on Epix.com, NHL.com and their apps, as well as via their Facebook pages.

Similarly, the programming from Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Ross Greenburg, who introduced the program’s forbear during his days as HBO president, will be available on the websites for the clubs and their respective apps.

The same programming and access game plan will be put in play starting on Feb. 3, when Epix, Greenburg and the NHL begin offering their preview ahead of the Stadium Series matchup between the San Jose Sharks and the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in Santa Clara at Levis Stadium on Feb. 21.

Those users looking to gain on-demand access to the eight episodes in the pair of 'Road to' series can request a pass to watch on EPIX. com. That would key Epix to work with its distributors to market the premium network to those viewers.

The linear and digital showings will be trumpeted by a multipronged ad campaign from Epix and the NHL, which faces off on Nov. 17.

Kirk Iwanowski, chief marketing officer for Epix, speaking here Wednesday afternoon at the Next TV Summit panel, “Epix & NHL Partnerhsip: Technology, Programming and New Opportunities to Reach New Audiences," said the programming, with its beautiful cinematography and storylines, is being positioned not just as a sports franchise show, but entertainment fare that will appeal beyond the 60 million hockey fans in the U.S.

The tentpole programming event is being supported by a multimedia ad campaign from Epix and the NHL promoting tune-in to the series' linear airings, as well as their digital showings that will reach across out-of-home, network radio, cable, print and digital platforms, according to Iwanowski.

Epix is shooting a flanking marketing arc aimed at acquisition and upgrades with its affiliate partners.

Iwanowski said that whenever Epix has engaged in tentpole programming pushes surrounding theatricals, concerts and comedy the network has performed well in adding customers with Dish, Verizon FiOS, AT&T and Time Warner Cable. “We’ve definitely seen a significant lift. We know this kind of tactic works for us,” he said.

Just as the NHL Winter Classic has become a staple of Jan. 1 programming lineup, the attendant programming and marketing could be a way that Epix and the NHL ring in more new years to come.

NHL COO John Collins, told Multichannel News after the meeting, that the support and budget Epix is affording Greenburg and his production company speaks to the level of enthusiasm the programmer has for The Road to the Winter Classic. He said that evaluations would be made, but in his conversations with Epix president and CEO Mark Greenberg the idea was that this project would air with the premium programmer over several years to come.