NHL looks to mobile, gaming to expand league’s growth

Image via EA Sports
Image via EA Sports
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When the Inside Mobile Apps conference kicks off December 3-4 in New York, one of the show’s featured speakers will be the NHL’s vice president of mobile marketing and strategy, Chris Golier.

And with the season now underway, not to mention, fans around the globe glued to both their TVs and second screen devices, we thought it was a great time to pick Golier’s brain about the league’s app strategy and how he sees the future of NHL viewing.

Inside Mobile Apps: How does the NHL view the world of mobile apps when it comes to the importance of helping grow the popularity of the league, giving fans what they’re looking for across all devices?

Chris Golier: We have built out across every screen as best we can. We definitely look where the fans are consuming, and fan behavior has changed significantly over the past few seasons, so what we want to do is create an optimized experience based off of that screen. So for mobile, it becomes a challenge because it’s a very fragmented marketplace. With all of the different size screens and all of the different operating systems, it’s a challenge, but through partnerships and strategic relationships with NeuLion and our work with designers here, we think we’ve come up with some great apps and experiences. The next step is, we’ve provided this access wherever you are, no matter how you want to consume, we’ll provide you that access to games, game footage, game coverage, highlights, and live stream. We’re starting to expand beyond that now, as this season we’ve launched a few mobile games that are new as part of our portfolio, the thinking being that we want to expand the fan base. There’s a younger demographic that is playing games, so we’re looking at the casual fans and wondering how we can bring those casual fans into the game. If it starts out with video games or casual mobile games, then so be it, let’s get you hooked, then we’ll get you to start watching the real games once you start to grow with the NHL.

[contextly_sidebar id=”2be64da43ffa68e7b65853d73db29232″]IMA: For fans who haven’t downloaded the new NHL GameCenter yet, what’s new inside the app this season?

CG: One of the things we’re doing is expanding with our teams. We launched 14 club apps, working closely with these teams to create an experience on a team-by-team basis, servicing their fans in their local market, and their displaced fans for that matter. And this is really a first step in a more concerted effort to talk to the fans when they’re inside the arena or when they’re on their couch in a local market. I think it’s a league and a club initiative that will continue to grow as time goes on, but it was a big effort. We’ve had the GameCenter app on the market for the past few seasons, and some teams have had their own apps, but now we’re making sure that every team is represented in the major app stores and providing a deeper look on a team-by-team basis with exclusive team content with those products.

IMA: How do you see the advancement of the second screen changing the way fans watch hockey?

CG: We think about that and have created a programming strategy around that, so with mobile in particular we know that the most downloads happen during game time, we know most usage happens during game time, so it’s that in-game moment that matters most to the fans. We have as much data and statistical information as you could possibly consume, whether it’s mobile, Web, or our GameCenter app. We have near real-time highlights that you can get access to while the game is happening, so if something of importance happens, we’re trying to get that information to our fans, so even if you’re not in front of a big screen watching the game, you can experience what’s happening and follow along. We do real-time shift changes in the apps now, so when you’re seeing the players go on and off the ice in real-time, it adds some beef to the experience when you’re with your wife shopping or you when you’re at a restaurant and can’t get access to the big screen.