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PWHPA TikTok simulcast a Canadian first

The PWHPA’s showcase game stream on TikTok shows new ways to stream women’s hockey online.

Heather Pollock/PWHPA

In addition to their TV broadcast, Canada’s Sportsnet shared December’s PWHPA Kipling Showcase in a unique fashion — live on TikTok.

Simulcasting and side casting are a growing part of the sports media world with the rising popularity of online streaming. Sportsnet has discovered great success with online simulcasting through their “Watch a Leaf’s Game with Steve Dangle” series. Dangle’s streams began during the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs when fans could watch, free, live on YouTube, the Leaf’s playoff game accompanied by Steve Dangle’s commentary. The series brought tens of thousands of viewers to the Sportsnet YouTube channel, many hoping to watch the game while Dangle’s face grew ever redder.

But let’s back up a moment — what are simulcasting and side casting?

A simulcast is anytime a broadcast is shown on more than one platform: often one on television and a second online. Typically, the secondary broadcast involves different commentary, often more biased and a bit less filtered. In the case of the Leaf’s games, while the on-TV broadcasts are professional and polished, the YouTube simulcast adds Dangle’s frantic, Leafs-centric commentary.

A side cast differs from simulcasts by not showing a feed of the game itself. Fans and independent media personalities livestream themselves watching the game, sharing their thoughts and commentary without showing the game feed. Yes — it’s watching someone watch sports. But it is extremely popular on livestreaming services like YouTube, Twitch, and more recently, TikTok. Creators use Tiktok’s live feature to share their thoughts during games allowing viewers to tune in at home as they watch the game themselves.

The December 19 broadcast took Sportsnet’s simulcasting to TikTok, the first Canadian sports event to be broadcast on the app. Sonnet and Scotiabank faced off in a game that was broadcast on Sportsnet’s main cable channels. Harnarayan Singh and Jennifer Botterill provided the commentary while an all-star panel of Ken Reid, Sami Jo Small, and Manon Rhéaume hosted the intermission report. The TikTok simulcast was hosted by two of the network’s younger faces: Faizal Khamisa and Ailish Forfar.

Before the game, the two presenters met virtually in front of their TikTok live audience. Forfar, a former CWHL and NCAA player shared stories and insights of the players on the ice. When the puck dropped, the livestream rejoined Singh and Botterill to show just the game. Forfar and Khumisa returned during the breaks to add their thoughts on the game and interact with the chat. Early in the game, the TikTok simulcast reached nearly 1000 viewers before dropping and plateauing around 200.

Admittedly, a horizontal video on a vertical screen did not make for a good viewing experience. The game was much too small and would have greatly benefited from rotating to a landscape view, especially considering the game was the only thing on the screen. The two could have joined the game on screen adding to the simulcast experience.

Though many of the PWHPA players said they don’t entirely understand TikTok themselves, they were all excited to be finding new ways to promote the game. “We want visibility on all channels and all platforms,” said Sonnet defender Laura Fortino. “Showcasing the incredible talent in women’s hockey is the goal of the PWHPA. Seeing all those little girls in the stands, ones watching on Sportsnet, and ones watching on TikTok… I think they can walk away saying that was an awesome game” she said.

And from what I saw online, the reception was just that. Excited at the prospect of being able to watch professional women’s hockey, hockey fans were connecting in the chat. Young players were sharing where they played and their aspirations for higher levels of hockey. It was an experience not dissimilar to PHF/NWHL games being streamed on Twitch.

Simulcasting presents the opportunity for professional women’s hockey to connect and engage with young fans on a new level. TikTok and other video-sharing apps are built around users watching new videos from new creators. It is an incredible channel for content producers to share their media and find new audiences. I think the PWHPA should capitalize on this. More than any other social media, regular sharing of games and highlights sets the foundations for the PWHPA to find a whole generation of new women’s hockey fans. And the beauty of the internet is if they don’t capitalize on this opportunity to share the game, any of us can.