How To Monetize Social Media With Jordan Maleh

Every day, more and more cords are cut from traditional TV.  With OTTs (over-the-top media) like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, how has streaming impacted live sports?  

On this edition of the Business of Social podcast, we chatted with Jordan Maleh from the Big Ten Network to discuss media rights and how to monetize on social platforms in the new digital age.

Jordan has been a Marketing Manager for the New York Knicks, the Director of Digital Marketing at Michigan University and is now the Director of Digital Marketing & Communications at the Big Ten Network.

Listen to the full show here: (and please subscribe to our podcast!)

Here are the highlights:

Here are some of the highlights:

In 2018, where is live sports going with OTT (over-the-top media)?

“As a rights holder, that’s the competitive advantage we have. We are in a great position.  Our bread and butter is live sports.  We basically became the leader in the space when we launched our app BTN2GO, the first app to ultimately produce and stream live games.” 

How do you transition linear and live sports to digital and OTT, but also respect the bread and butter [selling the rights] that has got the network there in the first place?

“I think about that every day.  As a rights holder, we also own the ancillary rights. Technically, we own everything revolving and aligning with a school. So the question from our perspective is, how do we extend the window of live sports? We need better areas to sell our digital opportunities. For example, we are becoming more focused with on-campus opportunities -- how can we tie in advertisers there?

The ultimate question is, how are we maximizing our rights, not only from an over-the-top perspective but from a digital and social perspective and what are sponsors interested in?”

How far are we from large corporations moving away from traditional ads like TV and more towards a digital-first approach?

“The percentage of people streaming are continuing to rise, however not to the scale of viewership in the traditional matter. But those percentages are rising and the brands understand where the consumption is taking place.

The challenge is that the space hasn’t matured enough.  Today, Nielsen can say these are households and this is what you sell against. No one has said that about digital in terms of total views, this is what you sell against, here is what a CPM is and it changes based off a scale.”

As we move into 2018, how do you begin to put together a package for digital sponsors?  How does it work?  Is it views?  Is it impressions? website visits?

“A great example is Libman, the green mop company who wipes the basketball courts at every Big Ten school across the country. They are a great client because they're open to new ideas.

During March this past year, they were open and had a detailed plan.  From our end, we started churning ideas of not only highlights but also custom content. We attack it by a simple number of activations. So, how many pieces of custom content could we produce? That was the number we were looking at.

Libman was our first digital-only sponsor.  Last year during the basketball tournament, they had no linear opportunities, they weren’t interested.  This year they're back. So you start to get a sense of how successful it was."

The Facebook algorithm: do you think the change has opened space for other networks to help with more organic reach? 

“My initial reaction was that content is going to be swallowed for a while.  But as you talk with sports-minded people, the leverage we have is the content and how it creates an expression or an action with people.  It’s just natural.

However, another opportunity we’ve thought about is Facebook groups.  Most people in groups are seeing group related content in their feed. We’ve been thinking about creating 14 BTN Facebook groups that live within our Facebook page.  The question then becomes, are you investing too much time into building a ‘group chat’ where you're sharing content that you own the rights to?  And then a year from now the model changes and the algorithm opens up again.” 

What are your thoughts on the Instagram algorithm and how old posts are coming back to the top of the news feed -- making it difficult for real-time sports updates?  

“We’ve begun to shy away from date-specific content.  We have an advantage because we are first to market with our highlights.  But we’ve found that each highlight must be really unique for it to rise to the top.  It can’t just be your average dunk.  

We've tried to find a healthy mix.  We’ve tried posting more and also slowing it down, but it’s still hard to tell.  We just have to throw things against the wall or slow it down ultimately.

Again, this goes back to us as a rights holder.  How are we maximizing our rights where we don't need to lean on the platforms themselves.  Yes, they are an outlet, they are a distribution platform but can we create content that we know will be successful no matter the algorithm and can guarantee revenue.”

David Brickley:  “The reason you hire someone like Jordan Maleh, with a background at the New York Knicks and Michigan, is because you need someone that is willing to dig into it.  Someone that is constantly tweaking and geeking out over the process, in order to make sure you're squeezing every ounce of brand potential on the different social platforms.”

Is email still a major approach and KPI internally?

“At BTN, we are lean when it comes to CRM so I believe that’s one opportunity we have to ramp up during the next fiscal year. We have the social and digital space, leaving us room to grow when it comes to email.

We have a good understanding of who our audience is.  Right now, we are trying to skew younger.  With the younger generation, I think most people would say it's social over email. But I'm with you, I'm an avid email fan.”

How do you talk with higher-ups in your organization, who may not be in the day-to-day,  about changes made in the industry that impact your entire department?  For instance, the Facebook algorithm and how strategies that worked today, won’t work tomorrow.

“We have a head start because our engagement tends to be more volatile anyway.  Since we are a TV network we tend to rely on big plays, but we also look at overall tonnage.

Again, we try to tie it back to revenue, which makes the conversation easier. Going back to Libman, we focus on the number of activations.  If we're working for more reach, then that's where we need to get into the ad model of boosting posts to try to reach a larger scale. 

Our executive team has an understanding of what takes place and the ebbs-and-flows.  But for now, the algorithm means we’ll have a little bit more ad dollars coming from our end.” 

What's the number one KPI that your role is responsible for at BTN?

“When I first got to BTN it was viewership, viewership, viewership.  Then it shifted to streaming, which falls in line with downloads. So, last year, it was downloads and usage of the BTN2GO app and retaining those people. 

A message that came from our president was that we are now a content company.  So the model is to get as much content out as possible while maintaining our core principles of eyeballs streaming and the overarching theme of maximizing our rights.

I foresee the next KPI as social ROI, once we are able to figure that out.”

What are your thoughts on mergers or acquisitions in terms of sudden opportunities for a social platform and audience as it moves over in the deal?

“From an outsider looking in, the question becomes what takes place with the regional and social handles?

A similar example is the SEC network under the umbrella of ESPN.  So really it’s, who is the king?  You'll probably fall under whoever is the king.” 

Who do you think is doing it right or smart on social media?

“In the sports world, the group thinking is incredible. With that said, in order to stay ahead, I believe you have to remove yourself.  Business Insider is a platform I look at, in terms of how much content they turn.  In the sports world, I tend to rely on Bleacher Report.  I marvel at how fast they turn content.

Coming from a different lens, one thing I look for is who is stealing content?  That's important to us as a rights holder.  We understand who is stealing content and sometimes platforms make it easy.”

How do you balance wanting to increase your brand message with people stealing content?  How does that factor in?

“If it gets excessive that's when it’s no help to our brand.

In terms of buying the rights, the overall pillar is how we maximize that.  We want to be in a position to have conversations about partnerships with people from those platforms who are interested in our content.”  

BTN is doing some cool, new things to increase television and digital viewership, can you tell us a little more about the programs you have coming?

“We’ve recently created a new campus program that we are really excited about.  We are hiring people to be ‘boots-on-the-ground’ who are both producers and editors that we call Multi-Platform Video Producer-Editors, or MVPEs.

Our goal was to have someone fresh out of college, who could be embedded within the athletic department.  The idea is that this is not a newspaper, or a blog coming from a press conference.  It’s someone within their walls, seeing the day-to-day.

After a really successful fall and winter pilot at Penn State, Minnesota and Michigan State, we hope to expand the program to 7 or 8 schools.

The next steps are to figure out the ad sales opportunities.  Now, we're able to sell more locally.  We're excited about the opportunity, we're trending in the right direction, and I think this model can be carried out across all 14 schools within the next 3 to 5 years.” 

And our random question for the day, can the XFL be a successful business model that actually pays off? 

“I'm optimistic!  I don't know for how long, but I'm optimistic in the entertainment.

As we talk about being a difference maker and going against the grain, I'm not going to question Vince McMahon.”