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Turner Sports: Targeting 'Tribes' Leads to Greater Revenues

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Whether large or small, every online video creator is looking to better monetize their work. A panel at the recent Streaming Media East conference in New York City provided answers on doing so effectively. One panelist, Peter Scott, vice president of emerging technology for Turner Sports Digital, stopped by after the panel for a red carpet interview on the future of targeting.

"The monetization, the cost to basically bring a lot of this content online can be difficult, so I think we have to go back to the cable model where we try to personalize the experience for each individual, and I think if you are able to aggregate that in a way where certain individuals might be Lakers fans or Duke fans or might be a Jeff Gordon fan, how do you target ads towards that specific user?" asked Scott.

Scott also provided tips from his panel discussion, including his idea of tribes.

"In my panel today, I just said, folks really have to focus on the audience they have and really use the tools that are out there to basically really direct that content to them because I think we are all -- I said today we are all tribes," noted Scott. "Whether it is entertainment, sports, or news, you have a tribe and in sports, it's more relevant because everybody went to college and usually everybody has a pro franchise and how do we target and make sure that we are sending a message to those individual tribes that resonates with them?"

To view the entire red carpet interview, scroll down.

Troy Dreier: Hi, this is Troy Dreier, the senior associate editor for StreamingMedia.com coming to you from Streaming Media East in New York City. We are on the Red Carpet with Peter Scott, the vice president of emerging technology with Turner Sports Digital. Thank you for joining me.

Peter Scott: Yeah, my pleasure, my pleasure.

Troy Dreier: So, why don't you tell us just a little bit about what you do at Turner Sports Digital, you guys are doing great things in online sports coverage?

Peter Scott: Yes, so what I do is we run a couple of digital sites for a lot of big partners, NCAA, NBA, NASCAR, PGATOUR and the PGA and my group is set up to look at new technologies that are evolving, sort of we're the scouts of Turner Sports, and we go out trying to figure out those new technologies and we bring those technologies back to Turner to figure out ways how we can integrate it into our day to day operations. Specifically for video, it's a very, very important component for us, both live and VOD. So, we work with third party vendors to what we think is the best experience when watching content via an IP connecting device. And, whether it is analytics, whether it is social, whether it is personalized content for the user, we really stress that it's a different experience than just watching it through TV. So we are blessed to have these wonderful brands, to be stewards of the NBA is a great honor and how do we make sure that that brand is getting seen on multiple devices by multiple bandwidths and in an experience that they enjoy.

Troy Dreier: At every conference, there is a panel on monetization. People are very concerned with making money from their content, not surprisingly. You were on the panel today.

Peter Scott: Yes.

Troy Dreier: What tips can you offer people on monetizing their content?

Peter Scott: The monetization, the cost to basically bring a lot of this content online can be difficult, so I think we have to go back to the cable model where we try to personalize the experience for each individual and I think if you are able to aggregate that in a way where certain individuals might be Lakers fans or Duke fans or might be a Jeff Gordon fan, how do you target ads towards that specific user? And I think you'll start to see a higher CPM, which hopefully generates more monetization for you. So, we have to work with the cable operator to make sure that we can broaden the digital products that can help their initiatives for TV Everywhere, etc; for streaming on IP, a monetization point for us there; for sales, working with them to figure out what the bright, gold shiny object is that they can basically pass on to a brand and we can really target whatever the content is for them. And then with the leagues, again, we are blessed to have these great brands, how do we make sure that we're on the cutting edge and we are figuring out ways to monetize that content in the best way that we can? And I really sort of in my panel today, I just said, folks really have to focus on the audience they have and really use the tools that are out there to basically really direct that content to them because I think we are all -- I said today we are all tribes. Whether it is entertainment, sports or news, you have a tribe and in sports, it's more relevant because everybody went to college and usually everybody has a pro franchise and how do we target and make sure that we are sending a message to those individual tribes that resonates with them? That is relevant to them and I think that's the best way where all of us can start to look at streaming and starting to monetize. I think the commoditization of technology has made it easier for people to get into production, you know, Livestreams of the world, the Ustreams of the world have made it very, very easy for folks to get into this business. Now, it's really finding that tribe that is willing to spend the money, we'll cut a demo to you to bring a tribe to sell against it.

Troy Dreier: So targeted advertising is a big factor for you. You guys do subscription model?

Peter Scott: We do subscription models. You know, again we are blessed that NBA League Pass, you guys did a nice complementary article about that this past winter and we were really excited. If you are an NBA fan and you want to see every NBA game, you have that capacity to do that through League Pass, and I think for us that was, you know, subscription products, you can do those kind of things. I am a big fan of major league baseball, having a great app as well, NHL right now during the playoffs and they have a great app and their regular season app is fantastic. So I think we're blessed because we have the tribes coming to our door. You know, I have an NBA fan I have an NCAA fan, you know, I know there are lot of people today in the room that don't necessarily have those built in audiences that they can really sort of target to. But I think again the hardest part about what we do is figuring out how you do it for low cost and really targeting and finding out who those people are that are watching their brand because I know there is an advertiser somewhere out there that if you can find the right sales team to coordinate your efforts, you are going to basically make some money off some real niche content.

Troy Dreier: You mentioned NBA League Pass, our writer Jan Ozer really got in deep in that and it looks like, to mix sport metaphors, you really hit a home run with that one.

Peter Scott: Mmm-hmm.

Troy Dreier: And we learned in that story that it has admirers in high places?

Peter Scott: Yes, yeah Obama. that's right. Obama made reference to it. I think that is our job, you know, when the president wants to watch a game if he's on the road and wants to watch a particular team, he has the ability to do that on any device, that's what we we're supposed to do, figure out ways that -- we can take a lot of the times existing TV infrastructure, the feeds are being produced, we have it going through our routers at Turner down in Atlanta, how can we take those feeds, send them through an encoder, make it even more available to as many people as we can. I think we have a good idea of what the market place wants and I think for us, we've been lucky because the brand is there, the people are going to come, but then you have to take that responsibility to provide them with something that's unique and different, that's not like TV. And I think for us, we've been able to do that and we are going to keep sort of pushing the edge of that envelope to make sure that whatever experience any user wants, they are going to get it.

Troy Dreier: That's what really impressed me about the League Pass, reading about it, was that people could practically choose any angle or you could have multiple games on the screen, I mean they could just call the shots however they wanted.

Peter Scott: Yeah, and again I think technology has allowed us to do that. Look what YouTube is doing with those multiple channels: I mean, you could basically with technology really personalize the experience and League Pass gives -- and even March Madness, we did March Madness in the spring time here where we were streaming 68 basketball games and on that first Thursday at the tournament is the largest -- the biggest audience that we get because everybody is in their office sort of sneaking and watching the 16 games on Thursday, the 16 games on Friday and for us, it's really a responsibility to deliver them the best product that they want. And that was very successful as well and I think -- what we talked about on the panel today was mobile, just being sensitive to where people are and basically ingesting the content now. How are they consuming it? We see large numbers, whether it is the tablet or the iPhone depending on what time of the week it is, people are really digesting it through mobile and I think we have to then again change the way the interfaces are on the smaller screens, make it easier for people to get to the content they want. Mobile was a big thing as well and so if you can sort of produce it once, you know, Ted Turner, we always used to do that at CNN, that if you could produce it once, package and air it across multiple distribution points, CNN International, CNN, CNN Espanol, same idea as the internet. If we can produce one basketball game once, how do we take that content and distribute it to multiple distribution places and that's what we are doing right now.

Troy Dreier: What can content owners do with their video online that they can't do on television?

Peter Scott: I think at the end of the day, television to me is sort of a lean back experience like everybody said and I think online, you can make it interactive and interesting and bring in a lot of components like social, we'll have live chats, we'll have the ability to metatag the entire stream, so you can watch, you can turn your DVR into a smart DVR, so you can go along the timeline and basically pick certain scenes that you might have missed, and there's an opportunity that if there is a touchdown or a great basket and everybody is talking about it through Twitter, you can actually go back and see that. So, it becomes a very, very personalized experience for the user and I think that's what we can do that TV quite can't. And then the addressability of ads, if I know certain people live within a certain region of the country and I know their IP addresses, I can serve them different ads, I can serve them different experiences. Major League Baseball does a great job of providing home and away feeds, so if you want to listen to your favorite broadcaster, Vin Scully with the Dodgers or whoever, you can watch and listen to Vin Scully and call that particular baseball game. And I think that's the kind of stuff that you just can't do right now in television. And I think the other one is the analytics, I mean one day -- a day will come, we don't know when that flip will happen, but where ad dollars and CPMs will be equitable to our friends on TV and I think if we can continue to show the power of the internet and our ability to target the certain demos and the actual people that are watching, it always sort of interests me that you can throw an ad up on television, but you don't know if the guy walked into the showroom to buy the car whereas we know with the internet, you can do a lot of those different things to sort of redeem that ad buy. What dynamic experience inside our apps is going to drive someone to go into the store and buy that product and we can measure it, whereas TV, it is very difficult to measure that.

Troy Dreier: Are content owners today using the power that they have for online content and creating these experiences, or are they still lagging behind what's possible?

Peter Scott: It just depends who you are talking to. If they are guys that have large budgets, you'll see very, very sort of pristine video, really interesting, fun experiences, sort of tailoring to that video experience. I think for others, they just want to get a video signal up and they just want to stream, that's all I want to try to do first and then we will bring in social, you'll bring in maybe trivia or other predicted gaming elements along with that experience so that you are making your user more engaged in the experience. What we're are all going to see relatively as soon is the ability to create your own sort of digital video experience that gets delivered to your email everyday and if you find the right entertainment company that can provide the news, sports, weather, entertainment, and you told them sort of the aspects that you want or you are a fan of the Knicks or you like Obama and you like to listen to music, that you are going to get some curated wonderful tailored video just you that's one thing we've started to hear mainstreaming media is -- look, you can't identify the content unless it is metatagged, so that's a really big important thing -- a part of Turner is every live event that comes in our building for basketball, for NCAA, golf, NASCAR, we are meta tagging all that content, so we know what it is and then we can make our relationships through that meta tagging. Those are the kind of things that get me excited where I can start to if I have 12 million fans on Facebook, how can I potentially deliver them, each individual their own personalized video highlights, that's the kind of stuff where I think we'll reach a point where we've used computational power to really drive a really fun interesting video experience, and I don't think we are far away in doing that. I would just encourage people who are in streaming media to really look at how they metatag their video, how they make it searchable and easy for users to get to it.

Troy Dreier: Well Pete, thanks so much, I appreciate your viewpoints and your thoughts on what we will see in the future. This is Troy Dreier, coming to you from the Red Carpet at Streaming Media East.

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