Digital MLS: Chatting with Chris Schlosser

mlsDevotees of Major League Soccer know Chris Schlosser as the Dean of MLS Digital Programs and a regular presence on Twitter.  Official he is the Vice President of Digital Media.  Before joining MLS he held various positions at MSN and is a graduate of Columbia University Business School and Colby College.

Mr. Schlosser was kind enough to respond to some questions from Footiebusiness about MLS Live, including the Stream of the Week promotion, problems with streaming speed and popularity of the service.  Mr. Schlosser also answered some questions about Direct Kick, league blackouts and MLS Digital.  Thanks to Mr. Schlosser; his thoughts are below.

MLS Digital has seen significant growth since it’s creation in 2010, with 2013 poised to become another great year of growth across the digital business. MLSsoccer is setting records for audience growth, revenue and engagement. Our product team has been busy over the 12 months with the release of a new MLSsoccer homepage, upgraded match center, enhanced mobile applications, new Apple TV application and continued upgrades to our video and streaming products. Similarly, our content teams have provided deeper, more in-depth coverage with the launch of long for series like “The Word”, new premium video programming and continued innovation in social media.
 
Stream of the week is a way for MLS to engage with our young digitally savvy fans; each week my team works to select a compelling match for the fans to watch free of charge. The free stream helped bring live soccer to new fans, generated sponsor revenue and provided a great platform to up-sell fans on our full subscription offering.
 
MLS Live and Direct Kick are roughly the same size from an audience size, however, our digital offerings have been growing faster over the last several years which is a trend I would expect to continue as bandwidth continues to increase and the number of devices that allow for easy streaming of content across a range of screen size proliferate.
 
Social media is a key focus across all of MLS. Amanda Vandervort who leads social media for the League is working across our organization to drive innovation and to find new ways to ingrate social tools into our events, sponsorships, digital experiences and office culture. We love that social media allows for a direct connection between the League, Clubs, Players, Executives and Fans. One key element of social media is speed and we are working across the digital product suite to find ways to speed up our operations. This includes match center updates, game data availability, highlights, articles, etc. 
 
MLS Live is a great value for fans, for $60 per season fans get access to over 230 live games, plus access to every game from the last four years in our archive. We are also working with our streaming partners to constantly improve and optimize our streaming experiences. Mark McClure who joined my team earlier this year after several years at DC United is leading this charge for us. You can already see the fruits of his efforts with the release of the new Apple TV application earlier this fall.
computerWhile we are working to optimize our products there will always be some lag in our streams given the need to manage satellite & fiber connections, encoding and delivery across multiple devices. Similarly, given our television contracts we will likely see blackouts for national and local games continue into the future. One big change however, is that our tv partners are starting to provide digital access to their games. MLS fans can currently watch national broadcasts on ESPN3 and NBC Sports Extra. We are also working to create tools to make blackouts easier to understand for fans, on the MLS Live website the schedule page will show you which games are blacked out specifically for your location.

Digital MLS: How Did They Do?

The posting has been a bit light this week; there has been a “new arrival” in the family which has changed sleep/work patterns a bit, but we expect to be back on schedule next week.  For now, check out this March interview we did with SUM Digital Strategy Director Chris Schlosser about MLS’ plans for digital media and online advertising in 2009.  Read the interview, and give us your thoughts….how did MLS do? Did you notice the ads?  Did you use the Brand Thunder Booms or notice the revised website?

Chris Schlosser is the Director of Digital Strategy for SUM,  a graduate of Columbia Business School and a former employee at Microsoft in Seattle.  While at Columbia, Mr. Schlosser formed a relationship with Sunil Gulati and ultimately came to work at SUM.  He was kind enough to answer a few questions from footiebusiness.com about MLS’ digital strategy.

Footiebusiness.com: SUM recently announced the initiation of an online ad network that targets a variety of sites that soccer fans frequent.  What are the benefits to the sites and SUM in participating in the network?  What are the benefits for fans?

Chris Schlosser: Over the past seven years SUM has built significant relationships with the US commercial community, we spend every day selling soccer to Fortune 100 companies. We are using this network of clients and our experience selling soccer to drive incremental revenue for our member sites. There are lots of other ad networks out there but I can guarantee you that none of them have more experience or more focus on selling soccer. In addition to driving revenue we are working with a number of our partners on content sharing and joint marketing to grow the collective soccer audience. From a fans perspective the SUM Digital Network should over time provide significantly better content and features, as revenue grows it is our hope that this will enable our member sites to invest more money in content and features which will increase traffic and continue to drive value for both fans and the commercial community.

F.B.  How will the ads be targeted?  Who will decide which ads get placed on which sites?

C.S.  Our sales team will work with our advertising clients to create custom ad plans tailored to efficiently meet the needs of our clients. Many of our official site partners (MLS, EPL, US Soccer, etc.) have significant corporate sponsorships already in place, many of these sites maintain a category system with certain sponsors retaining exclusivity, we are used to working in this environment and will work across our network to protect existing commercial relationships. We also are focused on premium ad placements and clients, we are not going after the “fat belly” ads that are so common on many sites today.

F.B. Far more than most sports fans, MLS supporters take a direct interest in the League’s efforts to generate revenue.  How will the League be compensated?  How about the sites?

C.S. Our fans are amazing, in fact a recent SBJ study stated that MLS fans show more brand loyalty than any other sports fans in America, we even out indexed NASCAR which is built around branded experiences. We see the digital space as a significant revenue opportunity over the next 3-5 years and are investing accordingly. As a member of our network sites will see incremental revenue compared to what they are currently seeing from remnant networks or in house sales teams. Additionally SUM will see revenue from more deals and larger deals as we continue to build our presence in the digital space.

F.B. What other electronic innovations should fans be looking out for in 2009?

C.S. We have a ton planned for 2009, including some very interesting launches. You will see us launch redesigned club pages for 11 of our 15 teams this afternoon, additionally we are launching improved video experiences, team social networks (see mydynamo.net for an early example), customizable and shareable highlight videos, and much more. 2009 will be an exciting year on MLSnet and our team sites. One great example of how the league is focused on improving the online experience for fans is that we are going to double the quality of our live game streams while keeping the same cost to fans as last year at only $19.95 for the season. That means you can watch more than 100 games for less than 20 bucks, now that is a great deal.

F.B.We’ve heard about the League’s new relationship with Brand Thunder.  We will the first “booms” be unveiled?  Who will be responsible for content?  The League?  The Teams?

C.S. The first browser should launch this week, we have a league deal but will work with each team to manage content and design on the browser.

MLS in the Digital Age: Interview with Chris Schlosser

mlsChris Schlosser is the Director of Digital Strategy for SUM,  a graduate of Columbia Business School and a former employee at Microsoft in Seattle.  While at Columbia, Mr. Schlosser formed a relationship with Sunil Gulati and ultimately came to work at SUM.  He was kind enough to answer a few questions from footiebusiness.com about MLS’ digital strategy.

Footiebusiness.com: SUM recently announced the initiation of an online ad network that targets a variety of sites that soccer fans frequent.  What are the benefits to the sites and SUM in participating in the network?  What are the benefits for fans?

 

Chris Schlosser: Over the past seven years SUM has built significant relationships with the US commercial community, we spend every day selling soccer to Fortune 100 companies. We are using this network of clients and our experience selling soccer to drive incremental revenue for our member sites. There are lots of other ad networks out there but I can guarantee you that none of them have more experience or more focus on selling soccer. In addition to driving revenue we are working with a number of our partners on content sharing and joint marketing to grow the collective soccer audience. From a fans perspective the SUM Digital Network should over time provide significantly better content and features, as revenue grows it is our hope that this will enable our member sites to invest more money in content and features which will increase traffic and continue to drive value for both fans and the commercial community.

 

 

F.B.  How will the ads be targeted?  Who will decide which ads get placed on which sites?

 

C.S.  Our sales team will work with our advertising clients to create custom ad plans tailored to efficiently meet the needs of our clients. Many of our official site partners (MLS, EPL, US Soccer, etc.) have significant corporate sponsorships already in place, many of these sites maintain a category system with certain sponsors retaining exclusivity, we are used to working in this environment and will work across our network to protect existing commercial relationships. We also are focused on premium ad placements and clients, we are not going after the “fat belly” ads that are so common on many sites today.

 

 

F.B. Far more than most sports fans, MLS supporters take a direct interest in the League’s efforts to generate revenue.  How will the League be compensated?  How about the sites?

 

C.S. Our fans are amazing, in fact a recent SBJ study stated that MLS fans show more brand loyalty than any other sports fans in America, we even out indexed NASCAR which is built around branded experiences. We see the digital space as a significant revenue opportunity over the next 3-5 years and are investing accordingly. As a member of our network sites will see incremental revenue compared to what they are currently seeing from remnant networks or in house sales teams. Additionally SUM will see revenue from more deals and larger deals as we continue to build our presence in the digital space.

 

 

F.B. What other electronic innovations should fans be looking out for in 2009?

 

C.S. We have a ton planned for 2009, including some very interesting launches. You will see us launch redesigned club pages for 11 of our 15 teams this afternoon, additionally we are launching improved video experiences, team social networks (see mydynamo.net for an early example), customizable and shareable highlight videos, and much more. 2009 will be an exciting year on MLSnet and our team sites. One great example of how the league is focused on improving the online experience for fans is that we are going to double the quality of our live game streams while keeping the same cost to fans as last year at only $19.95 for the season. That means you can watch more than 100 games for less than 20 bucks, now that is a great deal.

 

 

F.B.We’ve heard about the League’s new relationship with Brand Thunder.  We will the first “booms” be unveiled?  Who will be responsible for content?  The League?  The Teams?

 

C.S. The first browser should launch this week, we have a league deal but will work with each team to manage content and design on the browser.

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