SBJ/April 10-16, 2017/Forty Under 40

Forty Under 40: Vishal Shah

eric espino / nfl
The NFL executive put in charge of the league’s high-profile digital businesses has a background in finance. Vishal Shah, the NFL’s senior vice president of digital media business development, has developed a reputation in the league for getting things done.

“He’s the principal driver behind the key areas of innovation in the NFL media business,” said Hans Schroeder, chief operating officer of NFL media and business. “For instance, the NFL tried to get a deal done with Google/YouTube for 10 years. Then Vishal stepped in.”

It isn’t just Google/YouTube, which in 2015 agreed to carry in-game highlights. Shah also took the lead in the NFL’s deals with Snapchat, Yahoo and Twitter, which carried live streams of “Thursday Night Football” for the first time last season.

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Shah said he was particularly proud of the fact that the Twitter stream actually worked, given the complexities of getting CBS, NBC and Twitter all working together.

“When Thursday came on and you went on Twitter and saw it, it looked fantastic on your phone, and it looked fantastic on the connected TV applications,” Shah said. “It worked.”

Shah is so highly respected in the league that he was given the prestigious Commissioner’s Award last year, the highest employee honor awarded annually by the NFL.

A measure of Shah’s ability to get things done can be seen through how he approaches virtual reality. The executive best known for his tenacity and ability to close deals, Shah has pursued a VR strategy that preaches patience. Last season, the NFL used three VR test partners (NextVR, Voke and LiveLike) to test the applications. Shah knows that patience is required.

“This is an investment in a medium that I know is a five-year or 10-year-plus platform,” Shah said. “There’s a level of patience that we have to have where some of the primary objectives are not necessarily distributing content or acquiring consumption or getting value back to the NFL. It’s really figuring out how we’re going to learn about this.”

— John Ourand

vishal shah

national football league |
senior vice president, digital media business development
Age: 35
Where born: Bahadarpur, Gujarat, India
Education: University of Pennsylvania (B.A., economics; B.A., biological basis of behavior)

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at age 20: Don’t let overthinking get in the way of strong intuition.
Profession other than your own you’d most like to attempt: High school teacher (at some point).
Cause supported: Education and development for rural students in India.
Guilty pleasure: Karaoke (though I don’t really feel guilty about it).

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Michael Jordan.
I am one of the best I know at … : “Seinfeld” trivia.
2017 will be a good year if … : The day-to-day geopolitical volatility doesn’t obfuscate sound long-term personal growth and organizational strategy.
The sports industry needs to do a better job of … : Harnessing diversity and inclusiveness globally.
You’d be surprised to know that I … : Have kept the ticket stub from every sporting event I’ve ever gone to. 




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