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Volume 10 No. 24
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Hangin' With ... NBC Sports Group Digital CTO Eric Black

NBC Sports Group Digital CTO ERIC BLACK oversees the broadcaster's digital division, Playmaker Media, which it created in May '16. A number of U.S. clubs and organizations including USA Swimming use Playmaker Media to stream their events, and the service also provides live streaming video support for the IOC’s Olympic Channel. Black spoke to SBD Global about Playmaker Media's partnership with Liga MX side Chivas Guadalajara's Chivas TV and his thoughts on Playmaker Media's first year.

On new features Playmaker Media has helped Chivas TV introduce ...
Eric Black: I don't like to predict the future or give out roadmaps, but I can talk about some of the things that we're seeing right now that you didn't see last year. We've launched natively. Last year they were a desktop-only solution. We've deployed not just desktop, but native iOS and Android solutions for them as well in-market. We also launched data integration, so we're leveraging data feeds and doing data overlays for all of their games moving forward. It's really enhancing the Chivas TV experience, not just with video, but how do we go beyond the video? ... We're pretty early into the season, but from what we're seeing from customer feedback and social media, the fans love it. Everyone's really excited about the new features and functionality. We'll continue to look to expand that offering and evaluate other options in the future, but just out of the gate, to get natively on two additional platforms for them and data integration ... it's a much better offering from a product perspective than what they had the previous season.

On how the deal with Chivas TV came about ...
Black: We were familiar with it. It's a pretty revolutionary model for them, and certainly down in Mexico. We were looking at that and were pretty excited about what they were doing. It's certainly something we're excited to be a part of. Earlier this year, we started conversation more broadly about how we could potentially partner and power Chivas TV and their solution in the [Mexican] market. They also stream internationally as well, so how we could leverage the learnings of NBC Sports Group and Playmaker Media and apply that specifically to the market in Mexico.

On Playmaker Media helping Chivas TV avoid technical difficulties ...
Black: It wouldn’t be fair for me to talk about their performance last year, it's probably better for them. It's fair to say that we bring a level of stability and we certainly have a track record of performance that was attractive to them with our U.S. offerings and global offerings and what we're doing in-market. I think the technology really made a lot of sense. The other thing I'd probably point to is how we've been more invested in the direct-to-consumer space, both with NBC Sports Gold and our work with NASCAR TrackPass internationally as well.

On whether he expects more teams to follow the model of Chivas TV ...
Black: You're starting to see some of that in the news right now. Not from us, but you're reading a lot about people that are exploring that model. This has been a really interesting time for the industry because people are exploring a lot of different things. I think you will look back and see them as a really revolutionary brand that's trying something very unique and very different. Other brands are evaluating this. Some have jumped in, some are looking at it. It makes a lot of sense.

On Playmaker Media's first year ...
Black: It's been an exciting year. We're staying true to what we envisioned this to be, which is being very strategic with the offering and with our partners. Chivas is a great example of that. Some others that we've launched with, NASCAR TrackPass -- that's an international offering in 120 countries. ... We're staying really true to what we started with, which was really strategic offerings where we can really prove out some new models and lead the industry, not just sign up 200 clients on a rate card. We're really looking for partners that are trying to change the space. We've got a good stable of those right now and are looking forward to the future as well.

Hangin' With runs each Friday in SBD Global.