New Media Summit

Monday, June 11th, 2012. Buffalo Sabres held their 3rd New Media Summit, inviting bloggers and internet writers, officially recognized by the Buffalo Sabre’s Organization. This event is a chance to give the fan writers a chance to be like the true media members like Paul Hamilton or Jerry Sullivan. The event included a happy hour meet-n-greet with members of the Sabre’s marketing department, “game experience” department and with team President Ted Black. We then were taken down into the newly renovated locker-rooms for a Q&A discussion session with Ted Black and Greg Reed, GM of WRG. The topics on the nights agenda included: changes to the broadcast and broadcast team, FNC building plans, area outside the arena and the City of Buffalo, the Prospects game and other potential events, Sabre’s offseason plans and hockey operations, and the overall game presentation and fan experience.

  1. Broadcast Changes

  • The first among the many changes to come involves Rob Ray. Rob Ray will take over for Harry Neale as full time color commentator for all 82 games in the 2012-13 season. Ray will sit beside newly inducted Hall-of-Famer Rick Jeanneret in the booth as RJ enters his 42nd season broadcasting for the Sabres. Jeanneret has also signed a multi-year contract extension and according to Ted Black, may keep his game limitation around 65-70 games.

  • The second major change coming is, in collaboration with WGR550, the team will be creating a new radio show, Sabres Hockey Hotline, beginning on Monday, June 18th , monday through friday, from 10 a.m. to noon.(during the football season, the show will run from tuesday to friday) This will replace WRG’s streaming of the Colin Cowherd show, aka Lebron James. The show will be hosted by Sabre’s broadcaster Kevin Sylvester and will frequent current and former players as well as news media personnel giving their insight to the Sabres team. The show will be broadcast live from the FNC in a set that will be built inside the Sabre Store.

  • Brian Duff, who joined the broadcast team last season will be the new host of the televised portion of the telecast. Duff will host all three segments: Tops Pre Game Show, Lexus Post Game Show, and the intermission reports between periods. Harry Neale and Danny Gare will now provide intermission reports and post game analysis.

  • The Sabres will no longer be telecast on MSG using the Rangers and Islanders feed but instead will be on MSG using their own feed: “using the feed that we produce. The Sabre’s telecast using our graphics, our intermission shows, and our talent.

  • The Sabres are also releasing the Sabre’s I.C.E Network. I.C.E. stands for Interactive Community Experience. Ted Black says that Sabres ICE, “culmination of our social media strategy and globalizes all of the Sabre’s social media challenges into one centralized website. It will give our fans a chance to interact with us in unique and engaging content in and interactive space.

  • Sabres.com was rebranded as Sabres Draft Central.

  • As for credentials, Ted Black wants a “one year probation period” for bloggers who want credentials and Mr. Black says that blog must earn their credentials through attending events like the Summit and attending games in the Press Box, thus allowing the Sabre’s execs to get to know you.

2.

The next part of the Summit was a Q&A with pre-submitted questions by each blogger.

  • Will there be any changes to inside or outside the arena?

    • “There are a couple things we are still aren’t ready to announce yet, but if they come to fruition, they will be dramatic. Our goal is to continue to make this a hockey destination.”

    • “…Finishing the paint job up on the roof.” “If you look outside toward the harbor, what was an abandoned parking lot is now gonna be a beautiful park with the grass that will be put down today.” “That’s gonna be a very dramatic improvement to this region. It will also allow us, if we are playing in June next year, to do a lot of stuff out there.”

  • Are there any plans to entertainment experiences to the area around the arena?

    • “We want to be careful not to expand our reach outside these walls, that harms other businesses.” “We are thinking about doing something with the Webster Block right out in front of the arena, but that hasn’t been decided yet.”

  • What can fans expect from the Prospects Game?

    • “Expect the top US talent playing in a market that loves watching hockey.” “We talked about having fun with it. We talked about maybe having a player draft like in the NHL All-Star Game.” “We’re gonna try and schedule some youth hockey games in there. And because it that time of year that its still beautiful in Buffalo, in late September, we could probably do some things outside as well.”

  • What is the possibility of hosting an All-Star Game, draft, winter classic, ect. in the near future?

    • “The All-Star Game hasn’t been in Buffalo since 1978. The reality is that next year its in Columbus and 2014 is an Olympic year. Its unclear at this point that NHL players will go to the Olmypics, but assuming that they do, that makes the next possible opportunity in 2015.”

    • “I would prefer to pursue the draft instead”

    • “They may expand that franchise(winter classic) in the future”

  • What are the Sabre’s offseason plans to ensure a successful season?

    • “The most exciting time happens in the next couple weeks, that is we have four draft picks in the top 45 and whether you use those on picks, or use them to trade up or trade for a player, those are all good opportunities to improve your team.”

    • “As we showed in free agency last year, if we see a player that we think is going to help out team, we will be aggressive in that regard.”

    • “What you have seen, and what you will continue to see is a lot of trade activity at the draft”

  • What’s the Sabre’s biggest need on the roster right now?

    • “I don’t know if there is a single biggest need, but it is well documented that we are thin at forward, but trading for Cody Hodgson help sure that up at the center position.”

  • CBA?

    • “I can’t really talk about that”

  • There was a relative large ticket price increase this past season, why did you increase prices and will there be and increase every year going forward?

    • “We actually went through the building and tried to right-size the prices on different levels.”

    • “The Sabres sell the 5th most in ticket sales and are in the bottom ten in ticket price.”

    • “The way the CBA revenue sharing works for a team like the Buffalo Sabres: it is designed to help the smaller market teams. Buffalo is the smallest US market by demographic size, in the league. And in order to qualify for revenue sharing you need to keep pace with the league-wide revenue growth.” “The league-wide growth right now is around that 8% range.”

  • How does the organization plan on growing the fanbase?

    • “Every team in the league has a 50 mile radius fanbase.” “…I guess about 45% of our potential fanbase is under water or in another country.”

  • What changes did the team make to the game experience that you found successful?

    • “Winning hockey is the best game experience.”

    • “We are looking for a sponsor to continue the student surge.”

The next portion of the Summit was a discussion about the game experience. Here are a summary of the questions asked:

  • What do you think of the blooper real?

    • “We surveyed our fans and it is one of the most popular things played on the video board.”

  • Is there any way to play meaningful messages while fans are still in their seats?

    • “We have our sponsorship obligations to adhere to.” “Where and when it airs is something we will take a look at.”

  • Are you planning on doing more giveaways during games?

    • “We do give away the game day program.” “Usually when you do a lot of giveaways, it’s to sell more tickets, but we are proud to say that we sell all our tickets.”

  • Is there any room for improving the lighting and the video presentation during games?

    • “We can’t have more of a theater lighting style without investing hundreds of thousands of dollars for that.”

  • Are you planning to do any more special event games like the Fan Appreciation Night?

    • “We absolutely want fan appreciation night.” “I really liked the return of Tux-n-Pucks.”

  • Are you going to expand the Party in the Plaza to more games or keep it the same?

    • “We had the tent, so the was difficult to have the party as well as the tent.”

    • “If we can schedule some more dates in October and March, then we will.”

    • “We will not be doing the party tent this year. I don’t think it was as successful as I hoped it had been both from a financial stand point, and we were really pushing hard to get people to go in there.”

  • Regarding the intermission bell:

    • There will be a countdown timer on the tv monitors

  • Is there anything in the business plan in terms of the Sabres expanding the blueprint via the East Coast league by picking up a franchise upstate?

    • “It’s rare for an ECHL guy to make a jump, so as of right now we are focused on getting Rochester going as a development model, and then if that ECHL team can help Rochester, which helps us, then we will look at that.”

  • Are you planning on honoring Jeanneret with a banner or anything?

    • “He is going into our hall of fame, the Buffalo hall of fame and the NHL Hall of Fame, and its really not something you should do until the end of his career.” “The best honor we can give him is having him call the Sabres when they win the Stanley Cup.”

A lot was asked and answered during the New Media Summit, if you want any more information about what went on or what was asked, then feel free to comment or contact me by any means.

Tags: Buffalo Sabres New Media Summit Ted Black

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