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Disney+ to Offer First-Ever Live, Animated NHL Game; ‘Big City Greens’ Alternate Broadcast Set for March

David Satin

In today’s media landscape, innovation is key for grabbing and retaining the attention of new viewers. The NHL is teaming up with Disney to bring fans a new and innovative way to watch hockey games.

Disney and the NHL are partnering to offer an alternative broadcast of the March 14 game between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals. The broadcast will be titled “NHL Big City Greens Classic,” and will feature real-time volumetric animation of players and teams modeled after characters on Disney Branded Television’s Emmy Award-winning animated comedy “Big City Greens.”

Watch a Trailer for NHL Big City Greens Classic on ESPN:

The first-of-its-kind alternate presentation will leverage NHL Edge positioning data (puck and player tracking) to recreate the action on the ice as it is happening while featuring “Big City Greens” characters skating alongside animated versions of the NHL players. ESPN+, Disney Channel, Disney XD, and Disney+ will present the live, animated telecast, while the main telecast will be available on ESPN and ESPN+.

“Working with Disney Channel and the NHL, we are producing a telecast that will reach a new and different audience and help to grow hockey fandom even more,” ESPN SVP Ilan Ben-Hanan said. “‘Big City Greens’ has a huge following in a younger audience that we are excited to tap into, offering a fun and creative way to enjoy the game across Disney platforms.”

The new alternate broadcast is a bit of a gamble for ESPN. Kids obviously love “Big City Greens,” but even with their favorite characters popping up on the screen, betting that most children will sit still and watch an animated hockey game for its full length is a risky proposition. Still, the introduction of a live, animated alternate stream is a truly unique innovation, and it could help lure younger audiences in.

“Hockey is an incredibly exciting and animated sport, but we felt it wasn’t animated enough,” said “Big City Greens” creators and executive producers Shane and Chris Houghton. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with the NHL and ESPN to see the Greens lace up their skates and add a generous dash of ‘Big City Greens’ comedy to what is sure to be an entertaining game.”

If attracting younger viewers is the overall goal of the “Big City Greens”-themed broadcast, Disney might be better off expanding the streaming presence of its most important major sports events. The NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” drew its youngest audience ever in 2022, the first year that Thursday games were exclusively shown on Prime Video outside local markets.

The Big City Greens Classic will mark such an expansion for Disney. The game will be the first sporting event ever to be live-streamed on Disney+, which has already offered live streams of “Dancing With the Stars,” as well as both the 2022 and 2023 Academy Awards nominations. ESPN+, which will also carry the Big City Greens Classic, is no stranger to alternate broadcasts, having presented the highly successful “ManningCast” alternate stream of “Monday Night Football” games hosted by Peyton and Eli Manning since 2021.

A wise “Simpsons” character once said, “Very few cartoons are broadcast live, it’s a terrible strain on the animator’s wrists.” But if anyone can pull off such a feat, it’s Disney! Fans can watch the live, animated alternate broadcast of the Rangers-Capitals game on March 14 at 7 p.m. ET.


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