CBS Sports Digital prepares for evolution

Amid a landmark year for CBS Sports Digital in 2017, where the outlet’s platforms ranked second in comScore’s sports category for the fifth consecutive month in December and saw 9% year-over-year growth in 2017, the group kicked off 2018 with the announcement that it had promoted Jeff Gerttula to Executive Vice President and General Manager of the platform. As the digital entity adds more brands to its network, recently ranging from the likes of the National Lacrosse League to the Colonial Athletic Association, Cynopsis Sports caught up with Gerttula to talk about his vision for the platform.

Gerttula on 2017: Our goals focus on all levels of audience development, expanding reach and engagement through our content and products. To achieve those goals we focus closely on trends in media consumption — where they’ve been and more important where they’re going. This has driven us to invest in mobile centric content and products and now connected TV experiences. It’s also driven us to expand our subscription and community businesses through investments in 247Sports, Scout, the relaunch of SportsLine. But we need to stay nimble with how and where we distribute our content while staying steady in our focus on the needs of sports fans. Delivering on the needs of fans who watch sports remains our core mission.

On surprises: The size and scope of interest in the Mayweather-McGregor fight was like nothing we’d ever seen before. We knew it would be big, but we didn’t expect it would shatter all of our audience records. It was the biggest traffic day in the history of our site by a long shot.

On emerging sports: We’ve seen healthy growth in a range of non-traditional American sports. It’s no surprise that soccer keeps gaining audience. More of a surprise was the interest we found in fitness-oriented sports like CrossFit and Tough Mudder. It was cool to see their passionate communities translate into media audience when we covered those events.

On challenges: Shifting business models are presenting a larger existential challenge for all digital publishers and the game is to stay ahead of the trends in consumption and monetization. And you need both. Audience without a business model isn’t a business. We’re changing our business model to adapt to where we think the industry is going and we know we won’t be making money the same way five years from now as we are today.

On sponsors: We’ve had some great sponsor integrations over the past year including with returning sponsors. Our high school sports site MaxPreps partnered with the Marines for the second year on the MaxPreps Semper Fidelis Athlete of the Month program presented by the Marines. Each month of the school year, MaxPreps names a male and female High School Athlete of the Month, leading up to the Male and Female Athletes of the Year in June, and athletes are chosen because they embody the ideal qualities of a Marine on and off the field. So far, nominations for the program have grown 40% compared to the 2016 season. As part of a partnership with Dr. Pepper that started in 2015, we created a series of social videos celebrating local college football gameday traditions for SEC teams. The videos really resonated and generated strong engagement on Facebook.
Ahead of the 2017 fantasy football season, we partnered with Comcast to deliver our CBS Sports Fantasy Football Commissioner product to the X1 App on Xfinity. Throughout the season, our commissioner players were able to track their fantasy teams, live scores, stats and projections on their TV within the X1 App all while watching the game. This is a great example of matching product innovation with a sponsorship to create a cool user experience.

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