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Volume 21 No. 6
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‘Steady as she goes’ for NFL Network

Mary Ann Turcke, the NFL’s president of digital media and NFL Network, has come a long way from the start of her career, which saw her designing and building roads and bridges as a civil engineer. Turcke, who came over to the league in February, has been assigned to build out the league’s media domain, including information technology and films. Turcke joined the NFL from her native Canada and its largest media company, Bell Media. Making an appearance at NFL Network’s Hall of Fame Heroes event in Santa Monica, Calif., recently, Turcke sat down with correspondent Robert Gray for a few questions on the digital space, the NFL and her goals in the new role.

Turcke came to the NFL from Bell Media.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
What is your view on ratings and streaming possibly cannibalizing TV?

TURCKE: You have to put the product on the screen that people want to see and on the screen they want to see it on. Then you back into the monetization model. … That’s what will keep the brand where it is. You can’t let the monetization model drive you to a solution that fans ultimately don’t want.

The growth of digital and social media remains a major story in the U.S. How do you see it playing out?

TURCKE: We have to be mindful of the younger generation and the fact that they value ubiquity and simplicity and they want to get their content quickly and easily. We do one-year deals with “Thursday Night Football” so we can try different things, but that might change. And it’s changing so fast. What is scale in the digital landscape? It’s not domestic anymore. It’s global.

How is the Canadian media market different from the U.S.?

TURCKE: Canada is further ahead in crossing that chasm from linear ecosystem to digital ecosystem. It will be an interesting experiment. They have a strong broadcast partner [Bell Media’s TSN]. DAZN is coming in with live streaming. It’s going to be interesting to see how those two ecosystems work together. Content deals like NFL-Verizon in the U.S. aren’t allowed in Canada. The regulatory environment is a lot more stringent.

What attracted you to this job at the NFL?

TURCKE: The part of my job I liked the most at Bell Media was TSN and sports. Increasingly I was like, “Man, the broadcast side is so challenging here and the scale is a problem. Wouldn’t it be fun to be on the other side of the table?”

Any new wrinkles for NFL Network viewers this season?

TURCKE: This season, steady as she goes. There may be some experimentation by midseason. We’ve done focus groups [on split screens], but we’re not sure how to execute it yet so our fans and consumers continue to be engaged with the product properly and are highly satisfied.

What are your goals for this first season?

TURCKE: Not just on my network, but in general, I’d like to see ratings bounce back. I’d like to see us extend our lead on our sports competitors. I’m putting together a new team and I’m excited to have everyone increase the level of pride. A lot of people here have been working at the NFL for a long time, and they need to remind themselves how cool it is to work here.