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Artificial Intelligence, discord over $, and an 84 game season?

May 23, 2023, 9:02 PM ET [4 Comments]
Jeremy Laura
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Okay, believe it or not I wrote 2 full articles yesterday. One had me so depressed that it won’t see the light of day. It was based, in part, on the video above. Friedman is featured on 32 thoughts and the release of Dubas was the topic du jour. whether you want to admit it or not, Toronto is the center of the hockey universe. I’m born and raised in Michigan, and have no reason to shill for the Maple Leaf. When you compare the number of outlets, youtube channels and podcasts Toronto is a dominant presence.

As I kept having to do the playback, there were two items that barely got a mention. One, the NHLPA is rumored (info from Elliott) to have approved an 84 game season, but not for the reason we all assume. When the league shut down, Bettman made no bones that 50% of HRR (at that time) was wrapped up in tickets/concessions/parking and in arena spending. The league has done a lot of diversifying but there is a metaphorical sisyphus involved here. As the boulder of revenue makes its way up the mountain, the forces of Hades use diverse and bizarre tactics to send it right back down. In this case, sand and higher learning.

No, this isn’t a bash on the collegiate experience. It’s actually one of my favorite development courses for NHL players. This boils down to a single franchise, somewhere in a desert like climate. A franchise that has had more arenas than should be possible in a fairly short time and now play to a max house of 5000 spectators (not always full) with $25 tickets aplenty for students who would go. A friend argued the point that Detroit has $25 tickets at times too, but the easy rebuttal is an arena that seats 18k and tickets that are much more expensive than that.

If the rumors are true (don’t place wagers) the NHLPA is putting a microscope on Arizona and potential violations of travel protocol. This franchise saw a GM fired for illegal scouting practices, a new owner who is waiting for a 2 billion dollar initiative (While Gila still has to be paid off). Now, this feels contradictory to the “solidarity” of the association. Only a few players have come out and said they are sick of losing up to 20% of their paycheck year after year (Toews was one). So you can have a 5 million dollar cap, but turn it into a 4 million dollar cap.

There are too many markets hungry for an NHL team that would do a lot more to get it up and profitable. Ownership groups (some) like having a “losing interest” because it’s a tax write off. Disney just closed its Star Wars hotel because the 300 million dollar write off is worth more than the facility was making (announced during the screening of the last “Indiana Jones” in Cannes). The owner in AZ isn’t feeling “motivated” to spend and is willing to let the team leak money. Well, the tabulations are based on the cumulative efforts of all 32 teams. You have a top 5 that make money (except in 2021 when no one did, I’ll try and find that link for that comments) a lot of teams that are at least self sufficient, and then money losers. But the owners aren’t punished. They’re given a discount and take escrow (bad CBA it turns out). So the possible 84 game season is spun as a way to expose practices that could force changes in that market.

Now, on to Artificial Intelligence. I wrote a few months back that the NHL took a 1 billion dollar loan as part of a new partnership regarding evolving technology. If you pay attention to Hollywood, the writers are on strike. At week 8, studios can invoke Force Majeure and start cancelling content. Disney plus yanked several shows (including the “willow” mini series which was the worst performing original series to date but cost 15 million per episode to make). Around this same time, free versions of AI script writers have been made available to the public. A Youtube channel programmed a new script for “Seinfeld” in about 15 minutes. You type in premise, what writer you want to emulate, characters and time length. Boom, full script. It needed actors to polish the lines but some movies have taken 3+ years or more of script rewrites to get to production.

Then I noticed that the newest NHL game kept getting updates. Even on the PS4 platform. The play by play will not only mention players, but if you did a trade will mention if it’s their first game back against their former team. There was a ceremony clip for Perron’s 1000th game. And, after a goal, tags appear on the players who assisted (when relevant). All in real time. Stats are read, current win streaks for the game you’re playing, all of it. That was a little shocking, then I got Darth Vader news. James Earl Jones sold his voice to Disney Star Wars. After the great actor shuffles off this mortal coil, they can use his voice in any project they choose and create new dialogue. Actors are selling their likenesses as well. The reshoots on the new Indiana Jones were all a guy in a green suit. Ford was superimposed in post. He shot real scenes for sure, but got hurt (he’s 80) and was out for 4 weeks.

We now have the technology to hear familiar voices do live play by play based on the sensors in equipment and pucks as well as a continually updated database. The “conspiracy theory” is that the studios wanted the strike. Machines can write scripts after hours and all day long. You can get non union starving artists to step in and put a famous face on them for movies and television. That is creepy to me. If you haven’t seen it yet, Instagram is full of clips of people putting their own faces on famous actors for short 15 second clips. And if that is the tech available to the general public, whatever is in development is probably 3 years ahead of it.

Where do you draw the line? I’ve heard everything from “get off the grid” to “fire all the actors”. I’m curious if the tech concerns you or if you think it will ultimately make for a more profitable and better product. I still choose human beings.
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