Why TV Networks Must Adapt To Stay Relevant with Emma May
Emma May is the VP of Marketing at Turner Sports with a focus on the NBA and Bleacher Report Live. When it comes to sports networks, Emma and the Turner organization simply ‘do it right’. Turner is one of the fastest changing TV networks and their not afraid to meet fans where they’re at on digital.
On this episode, we chatted with Emma about marketing and her expertise from a brand's perspective on digital, direct-to-consumer (OTT), and the linear TV business.
Here are the highlights:
[15:07]: What's your first reaction about IGTV and vertical storytelling overall? Do you think they have a chance to compete with other long-form content platforms like YouTube?
"It’s really interesting, I've been playing around with it for the last two, three weeks now. IG always performs so well for us from an organic standpoint, but also from a paid standpoint as well. We've seen really, really great results; with stories, carousel, you name it. We're always the first ones to raise our hands to say throw up a paid beta our way.”
[27:43]: How do you split your time between digital, OTT and linear? Is there one area you spend more time in than others?
"The first lane I spend the majority of my time on is the fan. Everybody said, digital first, linear first... No, no, no, no, I'm thinking about what's right for the fan. And I know that sounds a little B.S, but it's true because I really do believe that if you make the right decisions based on what you think the right message is for your fan, that's most important. Secondly, yeah, I'm thinking digital first."
[47:54]: What's the one thing you think brands are not focused on enough?
"Giving the right message every time. I see a lot of miss-message out there. Taking creative risks is important. But there are brands that are clearly missing the mark on messaging"
David Brickley [00:00:05]: What is going on everybody? It is David Brickley, the host of the Business of Social podcast, powered by STN Digital. We work with the experts each and every show to learn and stay up to date on the ever changing digital and marking industry. I'm really excited about this next guest. I guess I'm always excited about the next guest. Emma May, the VP of marketing at Turner Sports. Full disclosure, STN Digital has worked with Turner on a lot of different projects, so a little biased but I honestly think Turner Sports is just doing it right. They're attacking this change the right way with being able to get a Bleacher Report and a house the highlights and what they're doing on Facebook Live and Twitter live and all these different things. They are a linear network, it started with Ted Turner back in the day but they are changing with the fan and where the fan is they are going and they're making those leaps faster in my opinion, than any other sports network or really any other linear network. They understand that digital is going to be the way of the future. So, really excited to get Emma May’s thoughts on marketing as a whole. She came from Red Bull as well as Nissan prior to her time at Turner, so she understands marketing from the brand perspective and the linear OTT Digital perspective. You guys are really going to love this one. Ladies and gentlemen, Emma May.
Alright, she specializes in the NBA and Bleacher Report live as the vice president of marketing over at Turner Sports. Emma May joins me on the podcast. Emma I’m going to hit you with the hard question to start things off with; who's more entertaining, Shaq or Charles Barkley?
Emma May: Charles. I think it’s got to be Charles, but I love you Shaq, we all love you Shaq. I swear to you, it's a joy my career to work with those guys, it's amazing.
David [00:01:55]: Well, being in marketing too, I can only assume that that's a marketer's dream, is they have personalities like that, that if you're having a bad day on the market side you kind of lean on them just to organically come up with stuff.
Emma: Are you kidding me? I mean, we take a content marketing approach here and because there's no reason not to. When you have the best in the business and when they do your job for you for the most part. I mean, I just can't complain. So, every morning on Friday when we come to work because we are on Thursday nights, it’s amazing.
David [00:02:28]: And I remember too when Shaq retired he was looking at options. He was looking at ESPN, he was looking at other options and Turner obviously… and I just feel like it was the perfect fit for both parties obviously, but I'm sure when you heard that news originally, it's like, now it's time to go.
Emma: Yeah. I mean, it's so interesting, I wasn't here when Shaq came here, I've only been here for four years. But, I'll tell you that just the dynamic nature of what all of those guys have, is really something special and all props in the world to Ernie who brings it all together and [inaudible 00:03:06] as well. They each play such an integral role and bringing in just something that's so special and it's a marketer's dream.
David [00:03:14]: Yeah. I have a lot of biases to state for the audience before we get into this because I've always believed inside the NBA’s is by far the best entertaining real show I think there is. Not only in sports, but maybe all in all of television. And then of course, working with you guys on the entertainment and sports side, just to huge fans and good friends with everybody, especially I don't know if it's like the Southern hospitality or what but going down to Atlanta, I don't think I've met one of you guys that aren't like giving us hugs and just so friendly. So, I'm sure you've obviously seen that from a culture standpoint, really from the top down at Turner.
Emma: Yeah. I mean, I'll tell you this and we thank you for saying that; it's awesome to have people who can see what we do and can see that we do things a little bit differently. But not for nothing, people always say like what makes Turner so great? Why don’t you go here? Go there? Go anywhere? And it's the people. And we have fun and we work in sports and sports should be fun. And we work in entertainment and entertainment should be fun and if we're not having fun, something is wrong.
David [00:04:16]: One thing I'll say too, it seems like nobody ever takes their selves too seriously. And that goes across multiple departments, sports and entertainment. Everybody I have kind of run across over at Turner again, it seems like everybody is passionate but nobody's ever stressing out and cussing. No matter how stressful it gets, everybody kind of knows, like hey guys at the end of the day we're having fun and this is all good type deal.
Emma: Yeah. We truly do believe that taking risks and failing is part of what we do. And so, when that happens, it's okay, let’s deal with it, let's move on, what did we learn? Let’s not do that again. But yeah, we truly do believe like life is way too short to kind of play around with all the BS and to get caught up in everything. And I'll tell you, we work really hard. And we are truly dedicated and we expect a lot. So, it's not pressure free but it is I think rooted in wanting to do what's right for the fan.
David [00:05:15]: I love it. Alright so, tell us a little bit about your current role and what you have received day to day, because I know it spans OTT, digital, linear; a lot of stuff.
Emma: Yeah, it's an interesting role. So, I came here specifically to work on Turner’s partnership with the NBA, which is relatively complex and it's about the big partnership. So, basically we have the NBA on TNT which everybody knows and loves. And those are linear rights that live on TNT regular season, we carry tip off, the all-star game, playoffs, Emmy award show, etc. So, that's part of that NBA partnership. And my team oversees, kind of the brand and the marketing for making sure people know it's time to watch basketball. And then, we also have the NBA digital joint venture that Turner and the NBA share, which is truly just out, it's a joint venture for their digital business and what that encompasses is NBA.com, the NBA app, NBA TV and NBA league pass. And then anything else that touches the dotcom, whether that's TNT over time or any other digital offshoots that kind of come about; you know partnerships with MaxVR, Intel… just as they come about. But, yes my team manages the marketing for that as well. So, we're out there handling [league fast] and [inaudible 00:06:38] app and watching [VA TV] and come to NBA.com. I have a product marketing team that really kind of focuses in those realms.
And then, a year or so ago Turner made the decision that we were going to get even further into the OTT space with the launch of what is now Bleacher Report Live. And we went out and did a pretty big deal with the Champions League (UEFA) European soccer to kind of really boost that OTT offering that we wanted to kind of come to bat with.
David [00:07:13]: I’m looking forward to the [Steve NASA color commentary] on that as well.
Emma: You and me both. We're excited to have Steve; we've got Kate Abdo, which has also been announced, she's kind of finishing up her stint on Fox right now with the World Cup. So, we're really, really, really excited about that and that digitally will live within Bleacher Report Live. And then we've done some other content deals as well for Bleacher Report Live and I've got a team that is working on that product as well. Yeah we're busy.
David [00:07:43]: Yeah. A little inside baseball; I'm sure a lot of the end consumer doesn't know this. But inside the NBA set and the NBA TV set, literally down the hall from each other and you guys have done a pretty good job of separating those brands. Because of course, NBA.TV, NBA.com has to be more PR friendly, can’t be really taking shots at teams or coaches. But then Charles down the hall it's a little bit different; you guys are almost a media outlet that you can criticize players, you criticize teams or coaches or GMs. So, you guys have done a good job kind of separating those two things.
Emma: It’s important. I think that it's important. We are at Turner, within the joint venture, we are the league's network and we are the league’s site and it's really, really important that we keep that tone out. But not for nothing, the NBA is fun. So, I would say we even have more opportunity to have a little bit more fun within NBA TV and NBA.com, etc., etc. Because the NBA, there's there's no better league right now. So, we do keep them pretty simple.
David [00:08:44]: I don't think this can happen in any other sport. I can imagine the NFL and the stuff they're going through, partnering with another network like an ESPN let's say and having a commentator, like a Shaq, kind of talk about the league, however he wants to. It seems like Adam Silver from the top down understands, to get that word out there and to market our league correctly, all talk about our league is good at the end of the day.
Emma: I think that's right and I think you see ESPN actually have quite a bit of fun with the League as well, whether that's with Rachel Nichols or you know whoever it is. You name it. I think that they've got some really great personalities that do well talking about the NBA as well. But that's right, and I also think that partnering with Turner, you kind of know what you get with these guys. And it doesn't work if they don't get to be themselves, it just doesn't work. So, there you have it and it works. So, [inaudible 00:09:45].
David [00:09:47]: So, you spent some time at Red Bull and Nissan prior to Turner Sports, how does your marketing efforts or your day to day differ from working at more of the brands and now moving over to linear and sports?
Emma: Yeah. In some instances it's night and day. But in the end, it's all about the fan. And so, I think Red Bull is one of the most brand conscious businesses out there.
David [00:10:18]: And their content marketing as been insane for years, I mean just incredible.
Emma: One hundred percent. And so, what I learned at Red Bull and multiple different roles there was just to make the right decision, make really great content, do everything… just the quality, premium, making sure that you're always doing the right thing and keeping the brand always in mind. But it's interesting, I came over here and I remember sitting through interview process and someone said, “well, how would you market an app?” And I asked a bunch of questions, I said, “Well, who are you trying to target? What are you trying to do? What are your objectives? What's your content?” Marketing is marketing. I truly do believe that, so I just think that my background and experience just kind of sets me up to when you have good content and when you have a good product, make the right decisions for the fans, buy media as smartly and innovatively as you possibly can.
David [00:11:19]: Know where your fans are.
Emma: One hundred percent. And use the data as much as you possibly can and then take some risks.
David [00:11:26]: Totally random; is that a Laker’s scarf in your office there behind you?
Emma: Yeah. Yes.
David [00:11:33]: I like you better already, I'm a diehard Laker fan.
Emma: Are you? I'm a recovering…. I took some time off, but I'm on board with Coach Walton. The next couple of days will be really interesting. I would love to come back to the fold….
David [00:11:51]: Wait, so you’re a bandwagon Laker fan, you're only about it when we're winning?
Emma: No, no. I'd take the Colby years off.
David [00:12:00]: Alright. So, going back to obviously, your time at Nissan and then going to Red Bull. I would love to hear your thoughts on what is stay tried and true? You mentioned towards the end of your answer there, that marketing is marketing at the end of the day. So, I know so much has shifted in the last decade of how you reach the end consumer with social and digital and OTT, but what are some of those same marketing tactics that you're still using and you think that will still be used a decade from today as well?
Emma: What’s the right message? Are you making marketing that shareable? And that's it. I think it will always be it. Like literally what are you trying to say? What are you trying to impress?
David [00:12:42]: And the platforms are just changing, but you're literally saying the same thing.
Emma: You have to. And now do you have to be really specific on sometimes on platforms? Of course, like what are you going to do? Are you going to do something on Snapchat? Are you going to do here [inaudible 00:12:54]? No, you're going to cut things a little differently, you are going to make things a little differently, they're going to be different levels of interactivity. But your message should always be your message. And then to me, is what you are making sharable? Is it good enough for someone to say “holy whatever, my buddy needs to see this”?
Word of mouth marketing is inherently and will always be the best form of marketing. It just will, it's the most effective. You have someone that says, “hey, I really like the socks, they're so comfortable, I got them here…”
David [00:13:34]: A great example is probably Huber. Huber for the first year was totally like, “have you seen this new app? O my God, it’s so cool”. And there was no commercials, it was just that word of mouth and that can really take you multibillions.
Emma: Right, it's why Red bull spends a lot of money getting people's to sample their product. It's like I try it, it works, I tell my buddy… So, to me it's is your marketing shareable and is your message clean and clear and delivered in a really crisp way honestly?
David [00:14:04]: You make a great point. One thing that I try to emphasize; I think a lot of people get this wrong, if they're not staying genuine to the platform. Like you mentioned, Snapchat is vertical, it's quick, you have to move the eyeball every second or two to keep people engaged. A lot of linear networks will take their thirty seconds, sixty by nine commercial and they'll put on Instagram and they’ll wonder why they only got thirty likes. But it seems like from what you're saying too, you understand that we have the message, but let's make sure we format it correctly for all of the different platforms.
Emma: It's so important. I mean, I think it was one of the things that I have had a lot of conversations internally about, which is “hey that spot, that's beautiful don't get me wrong. You know that end page that's at the end of the thirty seconds where you’re telling them what to do at the end of the thirty seconds?” Nobody is watching thirty seconds of anything. So, you’ve just wasted your whole opportunity. You have to come in early with your message and then you, depending on the platform, it just has to be designed completely differently.
David [00:15:07]: Hundred percent. Alright, so I know we're in the infancy but I'm really excited about IG TV and just vertical storytelling overall. I think YouTube had a stranglehold over that market; at least for long form content and just to have a competitor in the space is nice. What's your first reaction to this? How do you guys think you're going to attack yet another new platform?
Emma: Yeah. It’s really interesting, I've been playing around with it for the last two, three weeks now. It’s so new. IG performs so well for us…
David [00:15:42]: For everybody, I think at this point.
Emma: From an organic standpoint, but then also really where I'm focusing in, is a paid standpoint. And we've just seen really, really great results; both within stories and Carousel and you name it. We are always kind of the first ones that raise our hands to say throw up a paid beta our way. Like what can we do? And we'll play around and pretty much do anything. I think the answer is yes. But I think it's too soon to tell. I think it's too soon to tell. I mean, YouTube is super powerful and we have partnered with them for years and years and years on a lot of different executions. It's performed really well for us as well. So, I think time is going to tell. I think we need at least two, three, four more months.
David [00:16:37]: Yeah, I wanted to ask you that question too. Good question; I think it's important to start playing around with it like you said and start to see what is working. But what I said about it was, Instagram stories was not user friendly if you had anything over ten seconds because if you're posting a minute long video you had that jump cut every ten seconds and it was annoying, it wasn’t user friendly. So, now that you can upload that one minute Snapchat type of discover show if you would like, I think there's going to be people and I have an iPhone ten or iPhone X or whatever. And it is nice to fill the whole screen up with content, so that's something that we'll see. But to that point, I want to get your thoughts on, if you ever think a full broadcast NBA game could be shot in vertical? When we're at the NBA awards, I was asked in Bob Carney and some of your staff too. But, I think that's something that, it's tough with a sixteen by nine basketball court, but there's probably ways that it could be done.
Emma: I think if anyone's going to do it, we will do it. And I think at this point, I think any time anyone who works on NBA’s business says no to anything from tech innovation standpoint [inaudible 00:17:51], I'll just walk out the door. So, I would say I think we have to play around with it. We've been playing around with camera angles for a year, we've been playing around with camera on the backboard, camera just following one player. We've been cutting things square and vertical for years. Yes, I think so. Just a matter of who's that partner and what's the right move.
David [00:18:51]: You guys have done a really good job of just making sure you don't get comfortable in what you're doing. Turner; I mean, going back to Ted Turner, has been a massive linear network of programs and shows and different channels. But I mean, just little things like going into Facebook Live, you had KG and Charles Barkley commentating a dunk contest in real time. And on Facebook, you couldn’t see the dunk contest but people that wanted to have that second screen experience that was amazing. You guys have done shows, I know, on Twitter live streaming before. Games, you purchase Bleacher Report, your house of highlights, OTT. It just seems that we all understand that linear and digital is changing and you guys are not going to be left on the sidelines when that big massive change happens.
Emma: I mean we cannot. It's just not a viable business option. And I think that everybody from David Levy to now John Stanky and whomever. We've got new big bosses, but I think everybody totally understands that. And here's the thing, we have to go where the fans are and we have to be on the front of understanding what the next phase in connectivity truly is. And clearly right now, it's your phone and it's whatever that looks like. But I mean, the connected home is really interesting and the connected car is really interesting and the connected universe, whether it's an experiential standpoint or…. we have to be on the forefront of pushing those boundaries and playing in those waters.
David [00:19:55]: And I know that you and I were both at Pro Max BDA on New York. And I was talking to a lot of our colleagues out there, and I really truly believe, the same way the radio to television kind of dynamic happened and television too or to cable television; that kind of jump. I think we’re going through that same type of revolution or jump and I know you were a keynote speaker and a lot of people are talking about we're in a revolution right now, we're in this crazy change where things are changing all the time. I just want to get your thoughts, if you think, is it as massive as that? Is it as massive as when we went from radio to television to now linear to digital?
Emma: I think it is. I think it's probably actually maybe a little bit more massive than that shift. I mean, the technology that we're seeing right now, the data collection, the ability to deliver addressable. It's really, really is massive, massive change. That being said, we're on a podcast, everything… newsletters I think have more an interesting uptake and following right now. I think what you're seeing with the athletic and what the player’s tribune, to me, journalism is not dead and the art form of writing is not dead and audio is not dead. It's changing.
So, to me, good content is good content. It's just a matter of how are we getting out there, what is the right thing.
David [00:21:26]: Yeah. I wonder if you agree with me, because I think for me, you have to be passionate about this industry. There's so much change here that unless you're passionate and you geek out over and you love it, it'll chew you up and spit you out in a way. And I think that's the most intriguing and exciting, but also the most frustrating thing about our industry is, right when you think you've had it figured out IDT TV comes out. Alright, let's get the troops together and figure out the hell attack of this thing. So, I’m wondering if you… it sounds like… you're shaking your head, you feel the same way like, “hey, I thought I had it all figured out but here we go once again”.
Emma: Changes the concept at this point. And there's just no room for people in this industry who can't be okay in that world. It not for the light of heart at this point and it's not for folks who just want to just come into their office every day and do the same thing over and over again. There are plenty of jobs out there for people like that and this is not one of them. So, yeah it's got to be okay, it's tough though, it's not easy.
David [00:22:32]: And I tweeted something recently, because we’re a social first marketing company. And four years ago we were creating infographics for teams.com. Everybody wanted to get traffic to their dot com, because that's where they made money. And then recently actually with Turner, we did a Facebook Live clause in New Orleans with a broadcast satellite TV truck, five cameras, we miked up sixteen people all just for Facebook Live. So, now we're creating television shows for Facebook and nothing else. And there was like a crew of thirty people; that's an incredible shift in four years going from info graphics to legitimate productions for our social platforms.
Emma: It really is. But I think the question that I have is, is how can we do those things? We’ve got to be able to figure out a way to get this production cost down. What we can’t do is do TV for the internet. The monetization is not the same, it’s just not and so the production cost can't be this same. We can't keep saying like, “oh yeah, let's just let's just do everything that we used to do for a linear show or whatever and let’s just put it here”. That business model does not work. So, yes. But I think that everyone is trying to get ahead of the game right now and put as much premium content out there and, and, and, and, and, and. But I don't think it's sustainable.
David [00:23:55]: To that point, I truly believe that once the Fortune five hundreds… I say this all the time on the show; once they understand that all the eyeballs are on digital, are on and these different platforms. They’ll start to move… I mean, television right now, eighty five billion dollar industry I think for linear commercials; sort of move a little bit of their money to digital. Have you seen that shift, have you seen more partners wanting to be a part of digital exclusives and kind of put their money where maybe one TV show only gets a hundred thousand views, but maybe on Facebook you can get a million type deal just based on the platform?
Emma: Yeah. I mean, I certainly can't speak for our sales teams. But I would say that, yeah, do we have more brands interacting with our digital properties and our social properties than we ever have before? Absolutely. I can tell you how I buy. And I buy almost all digital. I certainly will every now and again do some simul, where or by someone linear, but it's if it's not based on data and if I can’t track it, then I'm really not interested in it. But to me trackable is so important and truly being able to understand and optimize for our spend, is really important. And right now, you know that's digital.
David [00:25:14]: And it seems like, with the different mergers that are going on, making glamorates kind of merging with Amazon and Netflix; Netflix saying they're going to drop a billion dollars in original content. It seems like the fact that Amazon and Netflix add that data element to their business, linear networks like maybe a Time Warner at Turner we're like we need to find a way to get that data and be able to go head to head. So, do you think those two really are starting to shift the industry of making sure that original content is always partnered with data in order to kind of go forward?
Emma: Yeah. I think the thing, folks have completely changed how we all think about data and how we all think about data and content and how we all think about selling. All of that being said, I do think that creativity is creativity and ideas are…I mean there's still brilliant filmmakers out there [inaudible 00:26:08] based on a book that's fifty years old or based on a story that just needs to be told. And there's no data behind any of that, other than it's going to work. And somebody knows it's just going to work. And so I think we have to be really careful about how much we trust data when it comes to creativity and content. That being sad, it's certainly idiotic to not at least look at, understand what it's telling you and at the very least sell properly against it.
David [00:26:42]: Yeah. And I think especially being at Promax and talking to a lot of television execs. It's not as crazy, I think people are thinking linear is dying, it's just a platform, change it. Like inside the NBA works on TNT and it works on Facebook live and it works on Netflix if there are some partnership there; like that type of content is entertaining, it's engaging, it’s genuine and it might be different from your fifty inch plasma to your seven it's phone, but the content is the content is the content.
Emma: People are watching more content today than they ever have before, ever. That's a really great thing for both you and for me. It's just how they're accessing it is changing and I do believe the consumers assumption for being able to get more content for free has changed. And so, there are a couple of things that are changed. Platforms are changed and consumer mindset in terms of what they should be paying for things has changed. And I think that's what we really have to deal with.
David [00:27:43]: Okay. So, being in digital, OTT and linear, how do you split your time up? Is there one lane or one pillar that you spend more of your time on now than maybe you did in the past?
Emma: Yeah. I mean I think the first lane that I spend the majority of my time on, is the fan. Everybody said, [inaudible 00:28:01] digital first, do your linear first, [inaudible 00:28:03]. No, no, no, no, I'm thinking about what's right for the fan. And I know that kind of sounds a little B.S, see but it's true because I really do believe that if you make the right decisions based on what you think the right message for your fan is, I think that's most important. Secondly, yeah, I'm thinking digital first.
David [00:28:26]: All being said, digital first.
Emma: Digital first. But the digital business has changed, the marketing business has changed so drastically in the last three years. And it is it is so much more you think it should be super easy and everything's just… and an algorithm pops up and tells you what you should do. It's hard. There is a lot of analytics and insights and optimization and what is working and what is not working and AB testings. You're creating fifteen versions of something, where in the past you just created one. And that's really time consuming. So, the digital business is just so much more complex right now and so I think it just demands everybody's time a little differently.
David [00:29:20]: So, I talk a lot about this show with different folks about Nielsen total ratings. And I think at the end of the day, to your point; if we're going to shift and we're going to talk about the fan overall. We need to almost come up with a way that, this is the content on linear, on digital, on Facebook, on Twitter, what have you and here is the overall consumption. And I know it's difficult because a three second view on Facebook is different than a linear view on television with a fifteen minute window. Have you guys started to figure out like what that metric is, are we really far away from it, does Nielsen have an answer to that as we move forward; like what does that look like?
Emma: I won't speak specifically about…kind of…We have to find a software and it has to come quickly. We have to be looking at total consumption across every single platform. And to your point, right, everything is not created equal, every view is not created equal, every impression is not created equal. But I'll tell you that someone who chooses to comment on a Facebook post is an active engaged [inaudible 00:30:25]. As opposed to someone who may have their television on and may or may not be watching.
David [00:30:31]: And to your point, if in a comment, I said “oh my God, add Emma May, you've got to check this out”. I think that's ten times more valuable than maybe just a single view, you know.
Emma: A share is more valuable, a comment is more valuable. And then people will say, “Well what about sentiment analysis? What about a negative comment?” I don't care about a negative comment, I'm fine with a negative comment, because someone who's saying like “Charles, shut up or Shaq, you don't know what you’re talking about”.
David [00:30:53]: They’re paying attention.
Emma: Absolutely. I will take them in a heartbeat and count it as good. So, I would like to think that we're close. I think that for the industry, we have to be close because I think for us to properly sell against the shift, we have to be close.
David [00:31:14]: Yes. And explain it to the fortune fives that do not understand this new age and how to kind of comprehend how it's been done for forty years.
Emma: I just don't understand who's doing their buying. But yes, you would you would think that they were in for even more major shifts with then, how people are looking at media and how people are buying within the next couple of years.
David [00:31:38]: I love what you just said there too, because we work with a lot of sports teams and there were some sports teams that I was really big on that weren't doing this. If they lost the game they wouldn’t post any content after the game. And I'm like, this is your chance to allow your fans to sound off, to talk about whatever, but that's going to be… and teams that did that the right way and said “hey, that sucks, but here's the results”. That would be their highest engaging post for the season because people want to sound off and have a place to kind of talk about their frustrations [crosstalk]…
Emma: [inaudible 00:32:07]: I think sports fandom is one of the most power powerful things that this world has to offer. It's right up there with like religion and politics and love for music. And it's like your team. I've not just because they're in Atlanta and I know a lot of folks over there, but man the Atlanta Hawks do it really well. And trust me, they lost a lot this year.
David [00:32:34]: Yeah. They don't win championships, but they’re always…
Emma: So, they do a lot of talking about losing. But they do it in such the right way, but I couldn't agree with you more. It’s about a community and it's about building a community and a community it's not always a positive place. But it's always a place where people feel like they can come. And I believe that teams and entities that build that type of relationship with their fans are really going to thrive. There was an amazing thing the Hawks did; their final game of the season, they were out of the playoffs. But if the Minnesota Timberwolves won their last game, the Hawks would get a draft pick based on some trade with Adrian Payne and all these different things. But the Hawks live tweeted the Timberwolves game as if they were a Timberwolves fan, because that meant for their fandom that was good news if Timberwolves won. So every time Jimmy Butler hit a shot, like “let's go baby, go wolves”, you know. And that was something that had nothing to do with their encore success, nothing to do with winning, but to your point, the community was worried about this game and excited about this game so they spoke to the community, spoke to the fan.
Emma: I was on Twitter that night and I remember initially, I was like what's the [inaudible 00:33:46]?
David [00:33:48]: It makes sense now.
Emma: Absolutely. Stuff like that, that works.
David [00:33:52]: I always like to ask this question; but in your estimation, what do you think the undervalued attention is right now in digital?
Emma: It's really tough. I can't say that I'm so ingrained in what we're doing that I don't know where everybody else is under or overvaluing things. I guess my thought would probably be in content partnerships. Digital content partnerships, to me, I am a big fan of finding a way to bring my brand to life by using another brand’s equity. And not just with a display ad. Is there a way to truly tie legitimacy and authenticity to another brand, whether that's editorially or whether that's with a unique paid involvement. So, it's also not for everybody. It's not superb, it's not always as blatant as you want it to be and some people just don't see the value of it. But when you have good content, I do believe that kind of finding that right partner is [crosstalk]…
David [00:35:09]: Is there an example that comes to mind when you think of a well-executed partnership like you mentioned that really spoke your message the right way and you got good results out of?
Emma: Yeah. I think we've seen good success with… I think a great example would be, we worked with YouTube to take their [masthead] for tipoff this past year. So, sure, you can take a [masthead] and you can… it's beautiful [unit], it's really expensive [unit], it gets unbelievable traffic. But we said, look we want to broadcast live on your masthead and we want to be the first sports entity to do so. And they were all in. And so, we took it and we did a four hour pre-game show that Morgan Dewan and [Mark Masteller] here at Turner produced for us. We bought it and we kind of had the idea and brought and help them bring it to life. But to me it was a way to kind of take a digital placement, bring content to it. But then, I mean we work with partners like complex, we work with partners like UPROXX, we work with partners like Spotify….
David [00:36:25]: That’s the demo you guys want to hit. So, it's a perfect partnership.
Emma: We’re super aspirational, in terms of how we buy. We buy young, we buy diverse and we're always looking for partners that can help us find that audience that is in line with what we're seeing, but we may not currently be talking to. Whether it's via NBA on TNT social handles or BET TV social handles. So who do we not have yet that we need to be talking to?
David [00:36:53]: I think is interesting too. It seems like with the at Turner Sports handle, that's more of kind of like PR and you guys don't really go to [inaudible 00:37:01] on that. But on the inside the NBA, on the Bleacher Report handles, on the House the highlights, it seems like you have the umbrella but nobody really cares about the umbrella, they're more worried about the individual communities and the individual shows. So, is that kind of your top down approach is, don't worry about the umbrella, but worry about the individual communities underneath?
Emma: We're absolutely focused on those brands. NBA on TNT, I touch bleacher report via bleacher report. But yeah, I mean, House of highlights is one hundred percent doing their own thing, Bleacher Report is doing their own thing. You know Bleacher Report has also branched out to B/R kicks, B/R football, and soccer. You know they've got an NBA, B/R NBA, NBA TV. Yeah, Turner Sports PR is one hundred percent a PR focused, I’d say a PR kind of media focused site. We truly do believe that our brands at Turner Sports kind of stand for themselves.
David [00:38:01]: Yeah and that's different, because like ESPN, they have their @ESPN handles and they go ham with it. But Turner Sports, I feel like it's always been everybody knows bleacher, everybody knows inside the NBA, but they may not necessarily know that it comes from all the same guy.
Emma: One [over everything]. Almost nobody knows that Turner Sports NBA have a [JD] as well. And so, when you think about it, Turner Sports inherently is not a consumer facing brand, we're really just not. Now, if you ask me if we should be or we shouldn’t be, that's a whole other conversation. But right now we're not.
David [00:38:39]: Yeah. Got you. Alright so, Bleacher Report Live, I'm super excited about this and the talk on the street is that potentially NBA being brought on board and maybe being able to buy a dollar to watch LeBron go off against Westbrook in the second half. But internally, how do you guys see this whole thing playing out in the next couple of years?
Emma: Yeah, it's really important. I mean, Bleacher Report Live and this OTT offering is something that we are absolutely focused on, not only from a sport standpoint but from a Turner and Warner media standpoint at this point. It is a top level priority. So, yes I mean we do have the NBA, that's a deal that has been announced. Bleacher Report Live will actually also be selling league pass starting with this season. We will have partial game pricing as part of the deal, which I think is really important. And we'll continue to do additional content deals. We've got some really interesting content deals that we've already announced, we've got the National [cross lead] that will start up, we're going with the world arm wrestling league. I love these guys.
David [00:39:50]: What a rabid fan base. The engagement we see for these arm wrestling matches, nothing else higher than table tennis, I’ll tell you. It's really, really interesting. We're going to continue to look for the right content deals. But I think the interesting thing about Bleacher Report Live, is that Bleacher Report Live, we're going to be your destination for live sports; not just the life sports that we have on our platform. We are live sport agnostic, so if you want to watch MLS game, well we don't have MLS, or ESP, or Fox or whomever has MLS, we're going to take you there. We're going to tell you exactly where you can watch it if you have DirecTV or if you have Comcast or whatever. Or if you do not have a linear subscription, cool, we’ll take you into their OTT offering directly. We truly want to be synonymous with live sports. And I do believe there is a place in the market for this functionality and we're going to get there. And I believe in it.
David [00:40:55]: I love it. Back to your earlier point about Turner Sports unnecessarily being a consumer facing brand. Take me back to maybe some of those early whiteboard sessions; I mean to call a Bleacher Report Live, rather than Turner Live or Turner Plus or whatever maybe, it seems like you guys wanted to double down on the culture that is Bleacher Report and the fan base that follows that because that is the more consumer facing brand and maybe Turner Sports as a whole.
Emma: Yeah that's right. We launched an app about two years ago now, called Catch sports and catch sports was really just that, how do you catch a game. Whether it's you want to go to a sports bar, you want to go here, you want to go there, that's where the idea around the functionality piece came into play. And it was run as an offshoot here within Turner Sports; a guy named [Matt McElroy] just kind of ran it and build it and he kind of did it all himself. And when we decided, we're going to transition this product into the offering, there were a lot of conversations that went on for quite some time about what's the right player. Do we keep it as catch sports? Does it become something else? Does it become something else? What do we call it? And eventually, a decision was made; yeah, we are going to put it under the Bleacher Report family and I think it was made for a couple of very smart decisions. I think immediately, you get an audience who is clearly already familiar with the Bleachers Report. You know, we have the ability to integrate more deeply within Bleacher Report's platform. Currently it's two apps; there's the Bleacher Report app and there's the Bleacher Report Live app. But I am hoping within six months to eight months, we work to a place where we have single sign on and we continue to integrate these two products.
David [00:42:44]: So outside of Turner Sports, I know you said you're in the weeds and you focus so much on your guys’ content, but is there anybody else out there in this space that you think is doing it right when it comes to digital and what they're doing?
Emma: If we're talking within the entertainment industry, I think that so many people do really great work. But it really is tough… Honestly and I'm sure you get this a lot, and this isn't even entertainment, but everything Nike does, I want to like stand up and give somebody a round of applause. I think it's interesting what Puma is going through right now, it’s really interesting.
David [00:43:33]: Where the hell that come from?
Emma: I don’t know. A couple weeks ago and I was like, “did I hear something about Jay Z and Puma?” I was like, “what’s going on?” And then all these media buys are coming through.
David [00:43:44]: And we were at the draft and we saw the Puma pop up shop and the rookies were outside of it. I was like, “I guess they're in the game now”.
Emma: Absolutely. I think Netflix does really cool stuff. There's just really great work being done across the board right now and everybody kind of has to step up their collective game.
David [00:44:09]: You’ve mentioned Instagram, obviously performs very well for a lot of us and you guys specifically. But is there any social platform or maybe a campaign you could think of that really drove linear viewership? I know that's always a tough correlation, but is there anything you could think of? Because I think that's always the question we get, is “hey, we got eight billion potential impressions but did that result in people turning on the TV and watching the game?
Emma: So, I've always been really honest with people on this topic. And I'm not going to be the person that lies honestly and says, “Yeah, we really believe that because they clicked on this that equals that they tuned in”. I don't believe that, I don't believe that to be true. Now, have there been really phenomenal social campaigns that have performed really well for us? Absolutely. And do I believe that up equals up? Absolutely. So, when we see social do really well, do we see linear do very well? Ninety nine percent of the time, yes. It's not like, “oh, big social engagement, nobody watching TV”; that doesn't happen. So, up is up. Up for digital is a good thing, it typically means up for linear as well. But, yeah, we've had some really great success with Instagram, we've had some really great success with Twitter.
David [00:45:37]: They have a huge opening right now. I keep on saying, with the Facebook stuff going on and I think they've attacked it and you've seen it last in the last few quarters.
Emma: I think that's right. I've always personally been a big fan of Twitter, I used the product more often than I should. But the NBA kind of lives on Twitter. Hash tag NBA Twitter thing. And so, the platform is really, really important, we're looking really closely at a pretty interesting fun tip off idea with them.
David [00:46:08]: But that's what's interesting about Bleacher Report Live, because I can envision an Instagram ad previewing a live game of OKC versus the Knicks or what have. Someone says, do you want to watch, yes, you click, it opens up the app, you start watching the game for a dollar. You can actually, thankfully, officially track that and you can say, we ran this ad, Emma clicked on it and she watched the game for thirty minutes. And that's the most exciting thing about the industry, is actually being able to see this ad is working and here's the final results of the ad.
Emma: Yeah. I'll tell you right now, when we look at league pass right, which is a product that we're responsible for marketing here; social and search slays. And that is where we are finding the best conversion, just hands down. So, it's just really important and I also believe that linear ratings are tied to…. and this is really, really technical hype. I think linear ratings are tied to hype. How do you measure hype? That's the question. We've done a lot of work here. I have oddly enough, a lot of word to talk about how hype actually works. And when we can pull different levers and when we see different things happening, when we can expect to see a big number on the air. But we know when that is true that we need to be really big in social at that time because we do see it perform well.
David [00:47:38]: Alright so, I know I got to get you out of here, but I got some rapid fire questions here towards the end. Name a tool or app that you or your team could not live without?
Emma: Twitter. It’s for sure, Twitter.
David [00:47:49]: Especially in live sports, it's just so important.
Emma: It’s just Twitter. I love everybody else though.
David [00:47:54]: What's the one thing you think brands are not focused enough on?
Emma: Just giving the right message every time. Every time, I see a lot of miss-message out there. And then I just see a lot of brands… look at I think taking creative risks is important. But there are brands that are poorly maybe just… I don't know who they're listening to or if they're not running any testing on their creative.
David [00:48:32]: Just too many call to actions where for fans or buyers don't even know what to do.
Emma: What are you telling me? Like what’s the action [crosstalk]…. Yeah, what do you want me to do?
David [00:48:44]: Alright and the last question for you. Twelve months from today, I want to have you back on the show prior to that, but if we don't link up for another year, what’s the biggest shifts that we’ll be talking about twelve months from today in the sports and digital industry?
Emma: Soccer. It’s got to be soccer, sport of soccer in America. I think we're going to see, we've got to see a resurgence come from the US women's team has always had a really strong team. The US men's team has got to get some [inaudible 00:49:13] behind it. I think the MLS is doing a lot of things right right now. And I believe that both Bleacher Report and Bleacher Report live, as well as Turner is going to do a lot to bring European soccer to the forefront. And if we have not done that in a year, if we're not talking about soccer, in a year it will be a mess.
David [00:49:35]: And then if all that momentum leads into twenty- twenty- six (2026), it's going to be good for everybody. So, I like it. It will be here before we know it. Alright Emma, if I ever run it to Chuck in Shaq, I’m going to tell them that you like Chuck better.
Emma: That would be great.
David [00:49:51]: I’m sure we’re going to run into each other in person soon. It was amazing talking to you. Thank you so much for your time Emma.
Emma: Yeah. Thanks David, have a great day.
David [00:49:56]: Alright, you too.
David [00:50:03]: Alright guys, there it was, Emma May, the VP of marking at Turner Sports. Man, we probably could have that conversation for another three and a half hours. I’ve had a background of sports, so I can talk about sports all long. But then when you mix that with the love and the geeking out as I always say of digital and social. She understands it and everybody over there, I think at the Atlanta headquarters understands where we're going and they are trying new things. And she mentioned catch sports, maybe they were a little early to the game, it wasn't the wrong idea to launch the app three years ago, they were just a little early. And now, with B/R Live, they’re at the right time and I think, just as a NBA fan, being able to log onto an app and catch the second half.