The NHL first round Stanley Cup Playoff bracket for 2024. The NHL first round Stanley Cup Playoff bracket for 2024. (

On social media throughout the first round of the NHL’s 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs, there have been many suggestions of both ESPN and TNT Sports using remote announcers and/or remote production.

Awful Announcing has confirmed through sources that TNT Sports has had the play-by-play announcer and analyst for some games in Canada calling those from their Atlanta headquarters and has used remote production for some of their games. However, they have had a reporter and producer on the ground for each Canadian game.

Meanwhile, AA has also confirmed that ESPN has had announcers in the building for every one of their games. However, they have done some remote production through a combination of Enhanced World Feeds for games in Canada and Remote Integration Model (REMI) setups for some U.S. games, in addition to the standard on-site truck model. And AA has confirmed that at the conference finals level and the Stanley Cup Final, ESPN will use the standard on-site truck model.

TNT Sports declined to comment on this report. But ESPN sent along this statement:

“ESPN’s commitment to high-quality NHL coverage is a top priority. There are numerous factors and dynamics that play into how games are covered and produced, including but not limited to logistical challenges with team locations and the ability to move staff quickly against a high volume of games within tight windows.”

On that front, ESPN has not been hiding its remote production. Indeed, Erin Orr (ESPN senior manager, remote operations) spoke about their usage of EWF and REMI setups to Jason Dachman of Sports Video Group last week. That interview is worth reading in full for its details, but here are a couple of key quotes from Orr on the challenges they faced, including with 14 games in four days across two countries:

“The nature of operations mandates thorough preparation for every conceivable scenario, empowering our team to adeptly manage such demanding circumstances at short notice,” says Orr. “Transporting equipment, mobile units, and crew to eight different cities within the given timeframe posed a considerable challenge, yet the shared commitment and collective effort of all involved infused the challenge with an element of excitement.”

…Throughout the playoffs, NEP Group and Game Creek Video provide all mobile units, jointly supporting ESPN and TNT Sports and deploying approximately 12 mobile units to cover potentially 56 first-round games.

“ESPN continues its collaboration with Game Creek and NEP for NHL Playoff coverage,” says Orr. “It’s a partnership marked by seamless adaptability to last-minute scheduling changes, diverse venue requirements, and varied production levels across four Canadian cities.”

…“In contrast to the regular season’s predictability,” she continues, “the playoffs amplify the pressure, imbuing each game with immense significance. Much like NHL players, our technical teams and crews bear the weight of every moment, understanding the imperative of precision and flawless execution. Consequently, our focus remains steadfast on nurturing and safeguarding the collective well-being of the team.”

Dachman also had this piece on TNT’s NBA and NHL playoff efforts, with some notable discussion:

TNT Sports’ regular-season mobile units, NEP ND6 and TS2, will serve as its primary facilities for Round 1 and 2. In addition, TNT will again collaborate and share mobile facilities in some markets with ESPN during the early rounds, deploying Game Creek 79, NEP Supershooter 6, and NEP Supershooter 24 mobile units.

New to TNT Sports this postseason will be “World Feed MFP” productions originating from selected Canadian venues. TNT Sports will work with Sportsnet to assist in producing these shows with supplemental facilities and crew.

For the NHL Conference Finals, the broadcaster will roll up NEP Supershooter 5 and Supershooter 6. All Conference Finals games will be fully produced onsite except for graphics operations, which will originate from the Techwood campus.

Remote announcing and/or remote production has been a sports discussion for much of the last decade. But that talk particularly intensified around the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when combinations of international, league, and arena regulations led to many more broadcasts going remote. And the “to remote or not remote” discussion has continued even with health concerns no longer the primary focus there.

As with gambling scandals, it’s worth keeping in mind that these are two significantly different things only covered together here because of a common “remote” denominator. In most cases, the most noticeable impact of “remote” is going to come from announcers not in the building. Both of these networks are doing remote production on some levels, but the remote announcers, which only TNT Sports is doing so far, are the bigger deal.

That’s not primarily because of technological limitations on the audio from remote broadcasts. Rather, it’s because of the challenges for announcers in calling games solely off monitors versus being able to freely look at anything in the venue. Some announcers have discussed how they’ve been able to work with that, but it is still challenging, and it sometimes still leads to noticeable errors. And that’s the biggest part of what’s led to much of the remote backlash we’ve seen.

There are potential ways where remote announcing could get closer to an in-arena level, including with added cameras and added view selection for the announcers. But even then, it’s probably still not going to hit quite the in-person level (especially when it comes to conveying the emotion of the crowd). So the criticism of remote announcing is understandable. But it’s notable that just because someone on social media accuses a broadcast of having remote announcers, that doesn’t necessarily mean that is the case.

The remote production discussion may be more nuanced. In-person production does still seem to be the ideal and the big-event mark. And we see that with ESPN committing to on-site trucks for the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final. But there are a lot of factors going into coverage of the early rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

One of those is non-exclusive national coverage. These games also air on regional sports networks in the U.S. and on Sportsnet’s national/regional feeds in Canada. That takes off some of the audience and often sees shared truck resources due to the sheer number of games (and the limited numbers of fully-capable trucks).

There’s also the complication this year of four Canadian teams hosting games. There were two last year and three in 2022, the first year for ESPN and TNT under the latest broadcast deals. And four is still not as many as it could be compared to the seven in the league. However international borders always add difficulties in terms of the movement of personnel and equipment.

The current state of remote production also isn’t what it was a few years ago. The technology has improved significantly, and production issues are definitely not specifically about remote or not in many cases. And there are some reasonably high-profile broadcasts that have gone to regular REMI workflows, including ESPN’s weekly Sunday Night Baseball.

We’ve also seen major upticks in remote broadcasting work with other networks and big events. And that includes NBC with the Olympics. But remote production does still remain a story, and it is still notable that ESPN finds it worth shifting to on-site trucks for the conference finals and beyond. If remote production was truly equal or better, it doesn’t seem likely they’d do that (except to ignore “remote” criticism, and it seems unlikely that criticism is coming in sufficient volume to produce that impact).

All in all, there’s room for a variety of opinions on remote announcing and production setups. There are some people who are against any level of remote, and that’s somewhat understandable. There are certainly proven errors from remote announcers, to say nothing of missed emotion channeling.

Remote production problems are often harder to specifically spotlight. But it’s notable that there’s still an ESPN plan to use on-site trucks at the biggest events (so the debate then becomes what a big event is). And it’s certainly worth looking into what each network is doing in terms of remote, and relaying that so viewers can form their own opinions based on what the networks are actually doing versus unverified social media claims about who is or isn’t remote.

[Sports Video Group; Stanley Cup Playoff bracket image from]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.