Since late January we have been hosting the Columbia University Sports Podcast, a look at some key people in the sports business. The podcasts are about 35-45 minutes in length and have had everyone from brand executives to former MLB players, all talking about their role, where the industry is, and more importantly where it is headed.
This week we were joined by Kevin Monaghan, Senior VP of Strategic Alliances at NBC Sports Group, to talk about how a traditional TV network stays ahead of the game in digital media. As the sports industry continues to respond to changing audience preferences and technologies, Kevin provides some insight into NBC’s strategy for reaching younger sports fans.
Monaghan explains how digital media has been instrumental in NBC’s success in taking the English Premier League from the relative margins of the US sports landscape to the front and center of weekend televised sports.
What made the conversation even more interesting was an important aspect of the media business which the better companies, like ESPN and NBC have embraced, and that is the way to look at the broadcast in a holistic manner. While so many “traditional” media companies have stuck to the rating as the key indicator, NBC has looked at overall impact as a way to best judge how a show or a property performs in a digital environment.
Some of the key takeaways from the conversation included:
Her name Is TAMI, and she is indispensable: Monaghan let the audience in on the way NBC measures broadcast impact, with a tool they call TAMI- Total Audience Measurement Indicator. TAMI, which was developed at NBC by Alan Wurtzel, the President of Research and Media Development for NBC Universal gives the network a look at Comscore, Nielsen, and Social impact as a best way to gauge an overall audience; the best way to ensure both the digital and the traditional impact a property has.
Taking a ride on a stream: NBC has been engaging in live streaming for a longer period of time than almost any other broadcast outlet, and has now launched Playmaker Media, with the International Olympic Committee being their first client. The new venture will white label streaming services for any number of properties going forward, including the Olympics, and may challenge MLBAM as a premier player in ala carte streaming not just in sports, but in event like the upcoming presidential debates.
Finding The Audience: Monaghan also talks about NBC’s investment in both Buzzfeed and Vox Media as ways for the company to better understand the young consumer base they need to embrace overall. He spoke of SB Nation, a key part of Jim Bankoff’s business at VOX in the sports vertical, as a perfect example of how to develop an audience in niche communities and know how and when to engage and grow, despite the fact that SB Nation has no access to game footage. They develop a targeted narrative, make the voice authentic, and speak to those niche audiences very well, something which NBC Sports can learn from in their engagement.
Soccer Everywhere: A devoted soccer fan, Monaghan helped champion the networks very successful move into soccer more deeply, especially with the Premier League. He talked on the use of TAMI as the best measuring stick for engagement, not just a Nielsen number, but more importantly he talked about the use of tools in broadcast that brought fans out of a studio and in to the pitch. That authentic engagement, along with the use of devices like the “All 22 Cam,” has helped drive the engagement level for Saturday and Sunday EPL matches beyond any projections that officials have had year over year, and makes NBC a go-to property for all things soccer in the States.
Building The Demand, Wherever It Is: A key part of NBC Sports’ growth has been the fact that they have adapted and delivered their contact on whatever platform the consumer wants. Thoughts of streaming compromising an audience were dismissed early on, and the use of Smart TVs to deliver content has made NBC’s engagement king as the unbundled and unconnected era grows in media. Monaghan pointed out that the NHL’s engagement during the playoffs has doubled year over year, while Olympic wrestling matches during the 2016 US Trials had over 1.8 million engagements with fans, a number on par with The Masters this year that same spring weekend. Drive content that is unique and has an audience, and the engaged will find and follow.
Find Your Passion, Pay Your Dues, and Learn To tell Your Story: We touched on job seekers and the places where people rose from, and Monaghan was quick to talk about passion and involvement. The ability to write and to tell stories remains king. He pointed out NBC execs from Dick Ebersol to Sam Flood who rose through the ranks of researchers and went on to have luminous careers, but came from very humble beginnings.
Those were some of the topics touched on, the entre podcast, number 21 in the series, can be heard here.