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NFL Now: 15 Seconds Is the Sweet Spot for Online Video Ads

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The 2014 Streaming Media West conference kicked off on a high note, thanks to an energetic keynote from Cory Mummery, vice president and general manager of NFL Now. This has been a year of experimentation for the new service, but Mummery was happy to sit down for an interview and share what's working so far. He started by explaining the value proposition of NFL Now.

"All of the content in one place is important. It includes, like I said, the clubs so there's a lot of behind-the-scenes content that the clubs are producing, whether it's training camp, player interviews, coach interviews, press conferences, things like that," Mummery explained. "Pull that together with game highlights and a lot of the footage that we're producing around games and then editorial content that we're producing around games and then editorial content that we're producing."

NFL Now is starting slowing with monetization options, including video ads. What kind of ad load works best on the service?

"First off, it depends on platform," Mummery said. "The mobile experience, specifically the duration of the ad. Fifteen seconds is really kind of the sweet spot that we found and I will also say that the users understand. They understand that if it's a free platform, that ads are part of the free experience and that the premium content that they're watching, whether it's from a club or NFL-produced content, they want the content, they're going to watch that."

To learn more about what works for NFL Now, watch the full interview below.

 

Troy: Hi, this is Troy Dreier from StreamingMedia.com coming to you from Streaming Media West 2014 in sunny Huntington Beach, California. This is the opening day and our opening day keynoter is joining me here. This is Cory Mummery, vice president and general manager with NFL Now. This year, the NFL launched the big new online product called NFL Now. Cory was kind enough to drop by and tell us about it, what it includes and why it was so vital that the NFL do this. Why don't you tell us what NFL Now is?

Cory: Absolutely, Troy. The NFL this year started a new initiative to aggregate all video content produced throughout the league, Thirty-two clubs, NFL Media, NFL films, all of our game highlights, build it together into a single product called NFL Now and then fully distribute that across all platforms that users are using today, from desktop, mobile, tablet, connected TV, devices.

Troy: Now, what does NFL Now offer fans that they couldn't get from other online sources?

Cory: There's a few big things that I'd point out there. Number one, all of the content in one place is important. It includes like I said, the clubs so there's a lot of behind-the-scenes content that the clubs are producing, whether it's training camp, player interviews, coach interviews, press conferences, things like that. Pull that together with game highlights and a lot of the footage that we're producing around games and then editorial content that we're producing around games and then editorial content that we're producing within NFL Media as well as films which is more long form content, Hard Knocks, other content series that your fans would definitely recognize. Pulling that together into one platform is number one.

This a first over-the-top video product for the NFL that includes all video content. Then number two, again, video fully distributed. Whatever connected TV device your fans use, they can get NFL Now on, so that's Xbox and Apple TV and all the rest as well as mobile and just pulls it all together and provides a personalized video experience that is geared towards what the user is most interested in. That could be a favorite team. If they play fantasy, their fantasy players, just whatever they're interested around the NFL, pulling in all these content on all these different platforms.

Troy: It sounds to me like personalization is really the key element that drives this. You said that you add over a thousand clips in some days and then people can't possibly find all the clips they're interested in. How do you personalize and get people what they need?

Cory: Absolutely, personalization is key because there is a lot of content, we're producing thousands of clips on some days like you said, especially around Sundays when we're producing five, six, seven hundred highlights for a given day. Then on top of that, you add all of the other editorial content that we produce. The numbers are way, way too high for a user to go and find their own content in most cases. We have editorial curation, we built it into channels and we aggregate the content into story lines and things like that, most popular, but the key of it is personalization like you said.

Fans, fans of teams, we know the user data. We know what the user is consuming, matching that up to the video metadata so we put as much metadata into the video as we possibly can. The players that are in it, the team that's associated with that content as well as what the content is about. Is it about fantasy? Is it about news, breaking news? What is much in that metadata and then the personalization engine matches the two together and builds a linear stream of content for every single one of our millions of users on the platform so they can sit back and watch individual video clips personalized to them.

Troy: You guys aren't taking a hard line in monetization in this inaugural year, right? You're doing some experiments. You're seeing what works. What type of things are you experimenting with?

Cory: That's right. 2014 was certainly a year of just experimenting to see what would work on the platform. We have long form content like I've mentioned, films, Hard Knocks, A Football Life, many other series that your fans would recognize. That is premium content we feel. We feel it's kind of that archive of NFL that we feel is our users would pay to access as well as our highlights experience which we packaged into the Pay to Access Premium part of the package. Then the other piece of it like you mentioned is monetization around advertising.

Obviously, we have a lot of sponsors and media industry representatives who want to be part of NFL Now, who want to be in part ... in front of our users that are very passionate about video. Obviously, video advertising is growing and is incredibly important to all marketing campaign. Given this is a video-focused product, video advertising is key to it as well. 2014 was all about testing in terms of where do we deliver ads? Is it when the user first watches their first video? Do we wait, see how users respond?

Obviously looking at all the data, the metrics around how users are interacting with the platform and we made adjustments throughout the year. We would deliver less ads or more ads and see how users would respond. Deliver less ads to maybe premium users, more ads to free users and just again, taking in all the data and them making decisions and we're pouring through everything now and getting ready for 2015.

Troy: Can you share with us some things you've learned about ad loads? What is the right level of ad and where should ads come for the optimal user experience?

Cory: Yeah. I mean, first off, it depends on platform. The mobile experience, specifically the duration of the ad. Fifteen seconds is really kind of the sweet spot that we found and I will also say that the users understand. They understand that if it's a free platform, that ads are part of the free experience and that the premium content that they're watching, whether it's from a club or NFL-produced content, they want the content, they're going to watch that. I think in today's digital age, they understand that there's going to be ads.

It's just understanding where they fit in and where users are comfortable with watching the ads and keeping obviously the user on the site and giving them a fun, enjoyable experience. The duration of the ad is one, fifteen seconds especially on mobile. It can go a little bit longer on desktop at times, and then where you place the ad. Putting in front of that first view maximizes exposure, but obviously impacts the user experience so we need to be careful with what we do there, but if you put it deeper into the content consumption, then a lot of users won't get to the ad. There's that sweet spot that we're kind of measuring right now. We'll make more decisions for 2015.

Troy: What other changes on the site you think you might make for the 2015 season?

Cory: Yeah. Distribution is a big thing we're talking about so I've mentioned connected TV. I've mentioned desktop and mobile. We're fully distributed on most of those platforms, but connected TV in terms of consumption like I shared in the keynote, it's over 50 percent of our minutes consumed. Obviously, a lot less on visits. The visits are longer in duration and that is a huge number for us. More than 50 percent of our minutes consumed on connected TV. That was as pretty big surprise for us going in to 2014 so that is a big part of what we're working on in 2015.

How do we get where the users are right now, whether it's your new platforms that are coming out since we're changing on a daily basis or platforms that have been there and we just aren't on yet? We're working on the distribution, especially on connected TV given that consumption.

Troy: Well thank you so much for joining us. You gave a fantastic keynote. You can see it elsewhere on this site. This is Troy Dreier coming to you from Streaming Media West.

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