It wasn’t easy and most likely will result in hundreds of millions in losses due to Covid-19. Still, the National Hockey League completed its bubble experiment and crowned a champion on Monday.

The NHL awarded its famous Lord Stanley’s Cup to the Tampa Bay Lightning after a six-game series with the Dallas Stars. The ratings were down from last year’s Boston Bruins-St. Louis Blues series, but viewership aside, league executive Keith Wachtel told CNBC the NHL is positioned to generate additional revenue after its bubble play.

Wachtel, the NHL’s chief business officer, said the league would explore in-arena fan engagement experiences with its new 5G partnership with Verizon, including exclusive 4K camera experiences. The NHL will also look to accelerate its in-game virtual signage technology that Wachtel said would be the “biggest game-changer that you can have in sports.”

NHL used a mixture of national and local advertisements on its dasher boards to help offset lost game-day revenue, including ticket sales. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said game-day income makes up 50% of the NHL’s annual revenue, which was roughly $5 billion in 2019.

“We missed out on significant revenue from a ticketing standpoint, especially in the playoffs where our games are filled every night,” said Wachtel in an interview Wednesday.

Wachtel said bubble crew in Edmonton and Toronto replaced the dasher boards with team-level local sponsorships after each game. He called the ad space “valuable inventory.”

Going virtual

Wachtel said the NHL wants to maximize the “signage on a global basis and in individual markets.”

Wachtel said the current dasher boards have “limited messaging,” and some brand logos are located “in a cluttered environment,” which impacts exposure.

After testing what he called the “Digitally Enhanced Dashboard (DED)” at the NHL’s All-Star contest in January, Wachtel said the league could be ready to add the virtual banners for the 2021-22 season.

The “perimeter signage” technology allows the NHL to replace physical, in-arena sponsors on the boards with interchangeable virtual ads during telecasts. The NHL invested in London-based company Supponor to develop the ads, which Wachtel said will allow brands to have ownership of what appears.

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