Prepping your TV for Kickoff

Growing up I wasn’t much of a football fan but having spent the last 5 years building features for sports fans… It’s become a passion of mine and one that I’ve dug deep on in terms of customer needs all in the name of “research” right?

Despite the headlines of ebbing viewership of football… It still represents 1/3 of the top 100 programs overall (NFL 29, NCAAF 2) in the last year and remains the biggest deal in TV… period. The only thing close is the Olympics, NBA Finals, World Series and major live awards shows like the Oscar’s… and no not Game of Thrones or House of Cards—they don’t come close in terms of delivering massive audiences.

So naturally my team at Comcast focuses hard on sports fans–still unclear why other TV providers seem fine ceding us such a lead in terms of differentiation on the experience but fine by me. 😉

My team’s feature lineup

Here’s the key features we’ve built to help the sports fan…

  • Sports Guide: new this season is destination for all things football including a live scores strip, live games, replays, commentary and more. And for the first time we’ve extended that to the XFINITY Stream App so you can tune into the game while on the go (or when you can’t get control of the house TV) including broadcast channels like NBC and ABC both in and out of the home.
  • Fantasy Football: Also new this season is a partnership with CBS Fantasy offering a personalized view of your matchups–allowing you to track the action right on your TV. Below is a view of my picks trouncing my fantasy league commissioner this week (sorry Ralph–I couldn’t resist) including ranking and analysis.
    fantasy-football-left-nave
  • Sports Companion: The X1 Sports App allows you to keep tabs across the leagues with realtime scores, deep statistical analysis, and ability to tune in or catch-up on replays. A majority of our fans also personalize their view enabling all their favoriting teams to appear in one place regardless of what sport it is.
  • X1 Voice Remote: greatly enhanced this season and now with full coverage of not just NFL but also NCAAF, MLB, NBA, NHL, and NCAAB. Now you can say things like “top running backs in NFL” or “Le’Veon Bell vs David Johnson stats” using your Voice Remote. Can’t watch an NFL game you’re interested in? Just ask for the team stats for any live or recently completed game (e.g. “what’s the score of the 49ers game?”) to get real-time stats.

Bringing it all together

This marks the 4 year anniversary of working together with the founders of OneTwoSee and 18 months since I led the acquisition  of the company. Since joining Comcast, Jason Angelides and Chris Reynolds have taken on leadership for this area under me and have led the team to even greater heights including these innovations. Their team combined with their engineering counterpart fellow Cal Poly Eng alum Matt Barbour deserve a ton of credit for not only picking winning features to build but for operating a set of features used by 1 in 4 X1 households every month… a total of half-a-billion times last year. How high will we reach this season? Can’t wait to find out but the first two weeks of football under our belt look promising even as we lap last year which followed the strong Rio Olympics.

What’s driving my team?

Since civilization began and the Greeks held the first Olympics 2,000 years ago sports has been watched live–and to this day it’s still by far he best way to watch whether you’re in the stadium or at home. However those rights aren’t cheap and PwC reports next year TV licensing rights will exceed venue ticket sales in terms of revenue for sports leagues. So at Comcast my team aims to make the most of those rights by making it easy and fun to follow live sports and ultimately tune into the games–making the rights worth it. So we’ll continue to expand what you can watch (e.g. streaming every Olympics event live) and make your sports experience personalized around what sports, teams and players you care about.

I hope you enjoy this football season and for those of you lucky enough to be Comcast X1 customers… 🙂 let me know what you think. We’re always aiming to make your experience better.

Posted in comcast, sports

280 characters = Navel Gazing

Twitter’s move to test doubling the character limit of tweets this week can’t help but remind me of internal discussions we used to have 10 years ago at eBay around Item Title length. In hindsight those discussions were pure navel gazing and distracted us from the core issues our business faced. I fear Twitter is doing the same today.

55 Characters

eBay Search Results

eBay Search Results (circa 2008)

In the beginning when Pierre Omidyar built eBay to help his fiancée collect Pez dispensers on eBay (spoiler alert: this was startup lore more than truth) he placed a limit on the number of characters a seller could use in their title: 55 characters. This stuck for a number of years however sellers would often complain that they would like more space to describe their item. As we discussed it internally at the company several reasons emerged as to why it would be a bad idea:

  • It would erode listing fees like adding a second category (doubling listing fees) or adding a subtitle (50 cents). Remember these listing fees made up about a third of eBay’s revenue at that time (balance was final value fees, paypal transaction fees).
  • It would make search results less relevant. eBay at the time worked on a pure title search and so by allowing sellers to add more words would mean some items only tangentially related to the keywords would appear (thru keyword spamming).
  • It would be harder to visually scan. Both the item page and search results would be harder to read with a longer title. In face there was some concern that even the search results loading time would be adversely impacted.

eBay Logo Circa 2008And so it went on. The topic was discussed at length and always controversial. Eventually in 2011 the company decided to expand it to 80 characters to align with Amazon and other online retailers platforms. At that point the search infrastructure had improved tremendously and was able to still provide relevant results. Did it fundamentally change eBay’s business in the end or help in its battle with Amazon? No.

So what’s the big deal for Twitter?

I think the lesson here for Twitter is one of putting heir energy and focus on topics that really matter. For example they should focus on the fact that Twitter is a two-sided marketplace of publishers and readers. Publishers are looking for audience and to get their message out. Readers are looking for interesting topics from the general (celebrities, politicians, news) to the more nitch (product management, design). And yet the way it’s positioned is not nearly that clear–and this 280-char test isn’t helping.

Ironically Medium, who already has a much clearer two-sided value prop and now business model, is doing exactly this.

Posted in business, ebay, product

Join product team shaping future of TV

I’m hiring for some pretty exciting roles. As a product manager within Comcast’s TVX team you will shape the way people think about and watch TV. You’ll join a team that is rapidly changing the landscape of TV from a position of massive scale. If you or someone you know is interested, keep reading and be sure to reach out.

Here are just a few things our team accomplished recently together:

  • Shaped experience for the Rio 2016 Olympics which drove Nielsen ratings in X1 households significantly higher than non-Comcast due to the superior sports experience and integrated streaming content.
  • Innovating around our Voice Remote enabling kids, sports fans, and movie lovers to easily and quickly get to what they want to watch all thru just using their voice.
  • XFINITY Stream App is now one of the most popular ways to watch TV on your favorite mobile device bringing together live streaming with your personalized DVR. Also added Roku with more connected devices on the way. Recent ad.
  • Our X1 TV platform won an Emmy for its user experience–and we continue to make it better, deploying new features and functionality all the time. Just a few months ago we integrated Netflix in a way that Reed Hastings himself called “the most convenient UI (user interface) we’ve ever had.”

roku_launch_teamThere are several product management roles available on my team from entry level to seasoned product leadership roles. Overall they look like roles you’ve seen at other technology companies. You’ll collaborate with other product managers and colleagues from design, development, business, marketing, editorial, support, legal, and operations to develop product strategies and requirements; successfully deliver new features to our customers and then measure their success. Rinse and repeat.

Today there are at least four roles open across two of my teams (although not all are posted):

  • Expanding Content on X1: Looking for two Senior Product Managers one focused on how we include popular apps across Web Video and Music onto X1 and another looking at directly integrating streaming video content within the experience (similar to Netflix). These two positions are based in Silicon Valley.
  • XFINITY Stream and TV Remote Apps: Looking for a Sr. Director of Product to lead a team including a couple open positions they’d be able to fill as they see fit (entry-level PM role as well as a much more experienced Principal Product Management role). These three positions are based in Philadelphia.

I’m looking to build a diverse team and one that taps into people that bring with unique backgrounds. Our products aim to serve people of all types looking to watch TV—what perspective will you bring?

Posted in comcast, jobs, product

OneTwoSee + Comcast = Happy Sports Fans

Today at Comcast we announced the acquisition of Philly-based sports startup OneTwoSee will join the rest of my Sunnyvale-based team to form what I think will be the best sports technology team in the business. From my post on Comcast Voices:

They not only bolster our efforts to build a best-in-class sports TV experience but also underscore our commitment to partnering with and investing in the local start-up community in this great city. I’d like to personally welcome Jason Angelides, Chris Reynolds and the rest of their team; they will retain their Philadelphia offices – just across the street from the Comcast Center – and report up through me.

OneTwoSee has played a huge role in our efforts to make X1 an awesome place for sports fans. In the past year, we’ve worked with them to reengineer our X1 sports app – initially launched with the platform to help fans check scores, standings, and schedules for games – into an interactive and immersive companion experience giving fans more data and statistics than ever before.

Usage of the sports app is now up fivefold from the winter of 2015 and now used by one in four X1 households on a weekly basis.

I’m so happy that Comcast’s been so supportive of my team’s efforts including this latest move. And if you don’t believe my words, here’s a mug shot of me with the founders as we announced the news… 🙂

Finally, here’s a roundup of some more of the day’s coverage:

Eric Fisher of the Sports Business JournalComcast Acquires OneTwoSee

Posted in comcast, product, sports Tagged with: ,

All your football stats up on TV

My team’s hitting a nice cadence with releases and following our Baseball Extras launch in June we built an experience optimized for the football fan. As product manager it always feels great to ship… but to see your product well received but customers and the press is absolutely golden. 🙂

NFL Extras GIF

Here’s an excerpt from my official announcement:

For the NFL and NCAA football season, we’re making the X1 Sports app the ultimate football companion. We are dramatically enhancing the experience for football fans, providing more data, real-time stats and visualizations, than ever before: pre-game player and team comparisons, injury reports, fantasy stats and leaders, win/loss probabilities to full post-game analysis including drive chart summary.

Read my full announcement on comcast.com

What’s more to get the word out we’re traveling around the country (SF, Boston, DC, Seattle, Chicago, Pittsburg, Atlanta, and Philly) where we’re joined by home town athletes to talk about what this means for fans in that city. It’s a blast not only showing off my team’s great work but meeting some of the NFL’s finest. 🙂

Here’s a roundup from the events:

NBC10 News Segment on Sports App

Posted in comcast Tagged with: ,

Don’t just switch the channel… play a game

Thrilled for my team’s announcement this week introducing XFINITY Games powered by EA. This is just the latest example of how we at Comcast are expanding and opening up the X1 platform for creating so many experiences beyond what you’d expect from TV. Probably the best way to understand the value proposition here is thru this short video:

I had a blast helping with the rollout to journalists and here’s a few excerpts from this week’s coverage of this new X1 feature:

Posted in comcast

It’s that time again… I’m riding to put an end to MS.

Friends,

As many of you know I ride each year in support of a cause close to my heart: raising awareness and money to support an end to multiple sclerosis (MS). I got involved in the cause in support of my son’s godfather who was diagnosed a number of years ago and thru conversations with you have learned how many others are impacted by MS.

Support BikeMS 2015This year I’m stepping up the distance to ride 120 miles over 2 days including a spectacular route over the Golden Gate Bridge and up the coast before heading into Sonoma. I also am captaining my own team in an effort to rally other folks at Comcast to join the hundreds of other Comcasters around the country that also ride for their own fitness and this cause.

Now for how you can help… 🙂 You’re support will go toward treatment and cutting-edge research to both stop and reverse the damage done to the nervous system by this disease. Three ways:

  1. Make a tax-deductible donation to Bike MS.
  2. Investigate if your employer offers a matching program.
  3. Want to ride yourself? Join my team.

Finally, I would like to thank each of you who have supported me in years past. God bless you!

Preston

Posted in comcast, events, personal Tagged with: ,

Watch a game like never before with baseball extras for X1 Platform

This week one of my development teams launched a new feature in partnership with Philly startup OneTwoSee that I’m particularly proud of.

Excerpt from my post on the Comcast Corporate Blog:

When I sit down to watch a baseball game, it’s fun trying to think like a major league manager, guess- along with player moves and assess each pitcher-batter match-up. Secretly, I really just want to be a better coach of my son’s little league team. But unless the station I’m watching shows a specific relevant stat or I take my eyes off the game to look something up on my phone, my armchair decisions are usually based more on gut than data.

Until now…
X1 Baseball Extras Animation

Our Xfinity Sports App on X1 has always been a fun, helpful companion to the main event, but starting today we are dramatically improving the experience for baseball lovers by re-engineering the app to give fans more data and statistics than ever before.

With the addition of the Baseball Extras, the new X1 Sports app will be one of the most in-depth, TV sports companion tools in the country, providing pre-game matchups, live batter-by-batter stats, and full post-game analysis – all on the same screen as the game itself, for no extra charge. Read more… 

Here’s a roundup of some of the coverage:

Posted in comcast, tv

Getting Products out from under the MIDDLE of the Bell Curve and Exceeding Expectations (SVPMA)

Given the key role Product Managers play in creating the environment for their teams… what must they do to avoid the bell curve of mediocre products that unfortunately are the norm? I shared my perspective as the guest speaker at the SVPMA (Sept 3, 2014) based on my own experiences and other authors/speakers that I trust.

Presenting @ SVPMA

I discussed specific ways to set clear goals and establish the right metrics. Dipping into my eBay days, I shared a little known story of the importance of asking for forgiveness rather than permission in driving innovation that resulted in the launch of the eBay iPhone app.

Some other takeaways from this talk include:

  • How to focus on the right, few, customer adoption metrics (e.g. AAARR). More is often not better and can distract from the main goal
  • How defining your product’s purpose often improves working relationships with designers and engineers so you aren’t left arguing about the “what” or the “how
  • How to avoid getting in the executive micromanagement web especially if they are distracted by the “flavor of the month” or “pet feature” ideas
  • How to drive stealth projects or go through quick business case or product prototyping within a big company.

I was pleased to host the event at Comcast Silicon Valley where I work.

A full review of the talk posted on the SVPMA website.

Posted in comcast, ebay, leadership, plaxo, talks Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Speaking @ SVPMA on Sept 3

I’m speaking at the Silicon Valley Product Management Association next month on the topic “Getting Products out from under the MIDDLE of the Bell Curve and Exceeding Expectations”.

In my talk I’ll discuss how Product Managers play a profound role in creating the environment around product development teams. I’ll explore various ways they can influence these products to move up from mediocrity and how to avoid micromanagement and “flavor of the month” feature ideas.

I’ll discuss specific ways to set clear goals and establish the right metrics. Dipping into my eBay days, I’ll share a little known story of the importance of asking for forgiveness rather than permission in driving innovation.

Some other takeaways from this talk will include:

  • How to focus on the right, few, customer adoption metrics (e.g. AAARR). More is often not better and can distract from the main goal
  • How defining your product’s purpose often improves working relationships with designers and engineers so you aren’t left arguing about the “what” or the “how
  • How to avoid getting in the executive micromanagement web especially if they are distracted by the “flavor of the month” or “pet feature” ideas
  • How to drive stealth projects or go through quick business case or product prototyping within a big company

In addition to speaking, we’ll be hosting the event at our Comcast Silicon Valley Innovation Center in Sunnyvale.

Join me and RSVP for the Event

Event: Sept 3rd from 6:30 – 9:30

Posted in comcast, events Tagged with: , ,