The NHL plans to announce a new partnership with emerging premium cable provider Epix "to produce and air the popular reality hockey series that precedes the annual Winter Classic outdoor game," reports Scott Burnside of ESPN.com.
In other words: 24/7 is back on.
According to Burnside, Epix will produce a four-part series leading up to the matchup between the Blackhawks and Capitals at Nationals Park on Jan. 1, similar to the old "24/7" series that aired on HBO the past few years. That name will likely no longer be used, but this is definitely welcomed news after the NHL and HBO ended their relationship last week.
Complete details for the new program, which will air commercial free in the United States, will be revealed as part of an announcement in Washington on Sept. 23. It's also expected that Rogers Communications will share production costs and air the series in Canada, for those of you above the border anticipating this series.
Epix was launched back in 2009, but I've admittedly never used the service for anything. It's apparently "a collaboration of heavyweight Hollywood film studios Lionsgate Entertainment, MGM and Paramount Pictures," so there's clearly big money involved, and that likely means we won't see any drop in production values with the transition in networks.
"As for distribution, Epix is available to 50 million U.S. subscribers and, as part of the agreement with the NHL, all hockey fans in the United States will have access to the finished product," Burnside wrote. That would seem to indicate that, one way or another, non-subscribers will still have a way to watch the upcoming series.
I do know that Epix has an application on PS3 and PS4, so that may be one way of watching these programs once they're aired. There are also apps on iOS, Android, Roku and other streaming options. However, given that major providers like Comcast and RCN don't currently carry the premium network, online apps like that may be your only way of checking out the series. I'm definitely banking on using my PS4 somehow.
So that's the good news, and now we can all plan accordingly to watch these things together. A few live-tweet sessions might be in order, though we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. Still, a high-quality documentary series involving the Blackhawks is back in production, and that's fantastic news for everyone involved.