Office Hours: Yahoo Sports’ Geoff Reiss on Bowling, Finding Fans and NFL Media Rights

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Welcome to a new episode of Office Hours: a podcast with Front Office Sports CEO Adam White and figures from the sports industry centered around three basic questions: “What’s on your mind today?”, “What are you excited about?”, and “Any big ideas or theories you want to share?”

On today’s episode, we are joined by Geoff Reiss, General Manager of Yahoo Sports.

Reiss’s extensive resume in the sports media space includes time with Newsweek, ESPN, the Professional Bowlers Association, Twitter, and more. Since 2017, Reiss has guided Yahoo Sports at time when several upstart professional leagues are forming, sports betting is approaching full legalization, and the media landscape is constantly changing.

Edited highlights appear below:

On his time as the CEO of the PBA (2:34)

Reiss: “Every sports fan should have a chance at running a sports league at some point in their life because it’s an unbelievable treat. That particular league had its own unique set of both assets and challenges. The PBA at one point, this goes back to the 1960s, generated higher national television ratings than college football did through a combination of things, demographic shifts, some curious steps along the way. It had been relegated to a lower tier of sports rights. The guys who bought it in in the early two thousands have just engineered a successful outcome for themselves by selling it to Bowlmor.”

“They have a healthy television relationship with the Fox network, which does a terrific job presenting the sport. The thesis when I ran it and it ultimately came true was that there would be an appetite among network programmers for a tier of sports rights that could basically fill a large volume of hours with good quality, consistent programming at a level of economics that weren’t going to bust up the budget and they’ve done a terrific job.”

On pro leagues that can gain an audience outside of traditionally successful periods for tv ratings (2:50)

Reiss: “The key in all of them is being able to manage it…being able to manage a sane level of economics in terms of how you present the sport and being able to present something that can engage audiences for a bunch of hours.”

“A hot dog eating contest may give ESPN a good rating on the 4th of July, and it may be something that a fan can relate to at some level, but it’s sure going to be, a tough struggle getting somebody to watch that for 30 weeks. So finding something that somebody can connect with that, that somebody can relate to that can produce that consistent quality programming.”

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On Verizon’s involvement in NFL media rights conversation (36:45)

Reiss: “We’re involved in internal processes right now to figure out where we play there. The NFL is a hugely important partner of ours. They’re an important partner to a number of different entities across Verizon. We’ve worked with the NFL for example, to make it one of the forefront places where we’ve been deploying 5G networks ahead of virtually anywhere.”

“We go at those conversations probably differently than almost anybody else because we have so many different touchpoints from both what we can do on a technical infrastructure point of view to what we can do in terms of deepening of Verizon’s relationships with its wireless customers. So it’s something we’re pretty deep in right now. “

On what a successful 2020 looks like for Yahoo Sports (39:19)
Reiss
: “I think it cuts a couple of different ways…Being able to work more effectively within. Verizon media is this enormous company and it helps to have that type of resources and we do an inconsistently good job of availing ourselves of those assets.”

“Perfect example, you gotta think that some subset of the incredibly smart, highly qualified people who use the Yahoo finance app every day might be interested in something like the college basketball tournament coming up next month or might be interested in something around sports betting. How do we do a better job of unlocking that customer. How do we do a better job of being able to serve the audience across the Yahoo homepage environment?”

“How do we do a better job of taking those millions of fantasy football players, many of whom have either a strong predisposition to betting or already are doing that and moving them into the Yahoo sports environment or Yahoo ports bet environment that is quite simply a better place for them to do that than other places they might be already playing.”

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