Interviews with Industry Leaders: Russell Stopford, Chief Digital Officer, Paris Saint Germain FC

Russell Stopford, Chief Digital Officer at Paris Saint Germain FC, shares his views on how football clubs are evolving their video and digital strategies.

The Pay-TV Innovation Forum is a global research programme for senior pay-TV and content executives, developed by NAGRA and MTM, and designed to catalyse growth and innovation across the global TV industry, at a time of tremendous change and disruption.

As part of the programme, we are publishing a series of interviews with leading TV industry executives from around the world to explore their views, perspectives and experiences of innovation. In this interview, Russell Stopford, Chief Digital Officer for Paris Saint Germain FC, shares his views about how football clubs are evolving their video and digital strategies.

How do you think the nature of providing sports content is evolving?

Pay-TV broadcasters have traditionally taken a singular approach to live match rights. However, what we’re discovering is that there are other formats around that live match window that are gaining traction with fans. Sports broadcasting is increasingly about how we can package up the whole pre-match, in-match, halftime and post-match experiences – as well as how we engage fans during the four, five, or even six days a week when football is not being played.

How do you distribute video content and what is your distribution strategy for your premium service, PSG

We are still experimenting and optimising what works best for different fans on different channels around the world. The key objective for any video channel is to work out what type of content can drive growth and fan engagement. In terms of engagement, time spent is the key metric for us, be that on our own site, YouTube or Facebook.

In terms of distributing PSG Premium, we prioritise investment in platforms where we expect to see the highest returns. It also makes sense to deliver mobile experiences, and we are exploring how we can develop augmented reality and 360° experiences on mobile apps. In addition to that, we are looking at streaming devices like Chromecast, Roku and Apple TV, but we have to determine when the timing is right for us as we have many new innovations in our product roadmap. We use market research data to understand which platforms we should be on and will prioritise them by conducting high-level ROI analyses. Ultimately, it's data on potential customer demand that will inform our distribution strategy.

PSG offers both free and paid video services – what is your rationale behind this strategy?

The club’s overall ambition is to reach as wide a global audience as possible, and some decisions are dictated by our rights agreements – for example, for some competitions, we have to offer video content behind a paywall. We are not only focused on direct monetisation of our video rights so I’d say we have a blended model – with a free and paid video offering – marrying syndication and broad distribution with the fan and sponsor experience. Video content is the primary asset that sponsors are looking for from clubs in the digital space. Brands are looking for more entertaining content and are trying to find branded content and brand storytelling opportunities. We have fantastic assets that enable them to bring their brands closer to PSG brand and create brilliant stories that resonate with fans.

How are you leveraging the data that comes from so many touchpoints with fans?

We are investing in data platforms to generate deep insights about our fans and to ultimately serve them better. For example, we collect data about how our content is consumed and how transactions are made on our platforms, which, in turn, helps us to get better insights into our customer behaviour and to improve the overall customer experience. By creating more value for our fans, by extension, we can also drive more value for our commercial partners. The challenge is knowing which data to collect and then having the right tools to derive insights and act on them.

Would you say developing the data platform is your current digital transformation priority?

Absolutely, but content creativity, product excellence, data protection, privacy and security are key as well. There are many important elements to providing the best possible customer experience, but the customer data element is crucial for PSG. It’s certainly not as visible as creating brilliant content that resonates around the world, like our Jordan X PSG launch with Nike, but, our customer data strategy is equally important from a commercial perspective.

What are the developments or innovations that you are most excited about?

I think Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to be the single biggest transformative technology that is going to impact the media industry over the next decade. I think the next big thing will be the use of AI to power mass fan data aggregation and using it to drive new content experiences in football. On top of that, I think voice control is going to change how we interact with devices content and services. We were probably one of the first big clubs to launch a Google Assistant app ahead of the 2018 World Cup and we are looking to further develop that initiative with Google.