With news last week that 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic would be discontinued, there were fears over the murky future of HBO’s highly praised series profiling players and teams in the lead-up to the NHL’s marquee regular season event.
While HBO will no longer be involved, it appears as though a 24/7-style show with quality production value and a significant budget will continue. Per Scott Burnside of ESPN.com, the show will move to cable outlet Epix, and the Kings-Sharks Stadium Series game on February 21 will be featured significantly in the post-Winter Classic continuation of the endeavor.
Not only will Epix — the cable entity that is a collaboration of heavyweight Hollywood film studios Lionsgate Entertainment, MGM and Paramount Pictures — produce four segments leading up to the Jan. 1 game at Nationals Park between the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks, they will produce another four-segment series that will lead into the Stadium Series game Feb. 21 at Levi’s Field between the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings, a source told ESPN.com.
The shows will be available on cable and multiple platforms in the United States. It’s expected that Rogers Communications, which owns the NHL’s national broadcast partner in Canada Sportsnet, will share the production costs and air the series in Canada. The two series will be available in the United States commercial-free and, as in the past with HBO’s popular and critically acclaimed “24/7 Road To The Winter Classic” series, will provide fans with an uncensored look at players, coaches and managers during the lead-up to the outdoor events.
Per Burnside, an official announcement is expected on September 23, with a projected budget per episode in the $400,000 range, which would be “on the high end for television documentaries.”
Expect compelling material once the Kings-Sharks content is introduced. While there will be accessible stories and high profile players taking part in the Winter Classic, an inter-conference game between Chicago and Washington won’t feature the same distaste and rivalry between a pair of teams that have faced each other in 20 playoff games since the 2011 postseason – culminating, of course, with Los Angeles’ 3-0 series reversal and seven-game series victory en route to the Stanley Cup last spring.
For those who receive Epix as part of their Time Warner Cable package, the cable channel can be accessed on channels 590-599, with 594 serving as Epix On Demand. As of now, DirecTV does not carry Epix. For Dish Network, Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-Verse channel listings, click here.