As a boy, growing up, one of my first memories of the Olympic movement was traveling with my family to the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada. Seeing the athletic feats first hand in alpine skiing and luge particularly struck a cord with me. Learning of the personal struggles athletes make in order to rise to the top of their game as competitors, let alone medal winning Olympians, is truly inspiring. And so when my role at Comcast allowed me, starting in 2014, to help shape the at-home experience of the Olympics I jumped at the chance.
This week in sharing our latest experience we’ve crafted for PyeongChang with the public I had the chance to spend time with two very special Olympians.
Sasha Cohen: In Atlanta this week she shared with a crowd, filled with young girls from the Georgia Figure Skating Association just starting their own journeys, what she most cherishes about becoming an Olympian. She recounted the sense of accomplishment in medaling, however its not what she most cherishes about her skating career. Her advice to those starting out is to appreciate the journey… the preparation thru training, scripting the programs, designing her costumes, etc. For those of us who build products for a living I think this also can hold true. Not that driving your KPIs isn’t gratifying (it is) but it really is the craft, the team effort and the process that I believe provides lasting joy. Sage advice from a 33-year-old Olympian.
Scott Hamilton: One of the all time greats in figure skating, he not only made his mark as a gold medalist himself but in helping many of us at home experience the routines of countless others over the years as a broadcast announcer. In gaining a peak into who he is as a man I can say this… the journey of becoming an Olympian really forged his medal and shaped who he is to the core. Nothing came easy to him in life — from battling major health issues as young boy to facing the world without the support of his mom when she died battling cancer while he was just 19. Thru it all he had to actively choose the path he took and no one would have blamed him for succumbing to the obstacles he faced. He said a big reason for his success was “making the easy decisions” like choosing to not to party the night before a big early morning workout — decisions he saw others, who were more physically gifted than he was, not make. I can’t wait to read his new book coming out next week.
As I reflect on what our product development team has put together for Comcast customers I can proudly say its the best way to experience the Olympics short of (or maybe including) going to PyeongChang yourself.
Demoing the X1 Olympic experience at event in Atlanta (1/30/18)
My personal favorites from the experience we’ve built this year:
Voice Remote: We’ve leaned into what we know from the Rio Olympics were the most popular phrases people say (mining the now 500 million commands processed each month). For example focusing in on the names of sports and the top athletes over the ability to search by nation. We’ll have live results and always connect you with something interesting to watch.
Olympic Channels: While previous Olympics had areas by sport, there wasn’t an easy way to enjoy a lot of video without picking and playing each one. For PyeongChang we’ll offer 50 virtual Olympic Channels powered as dynamic playlists… allowing you to both lean back and enjoy or lean forward to skip to a segment that looks interesting. We’ll apply to all the sports as well as curated topics like biggest upsets and funniest moments. In a waywe’ve tried to combine the simplicity of live with the control of OnDemand.
Olympic Home on X1 (Comcast)
XFINITY Stream App: In the past if you wanted to stream live the Olympics on your mobile phone or laptop you had to go install or signin to the NBC Sports App. For PyeongChang while you can still do that, we’re making it easy for those already used to the Stream App to make that video just a tap away whether you’re home or not. No muss, no fuss.
X1 Sports App: For over half the X1 households that use this feature every month, it needs no introduction. For the Winter Olympics it’s sporting its own tab right alongside the other major sports in season right now. You’ll find it complete with everything you’d expect: all the events live at that time, background info, current results, related videos, and of course the ability to tune right in. Just press the “C” key on your remote to pull it up.
Creating this multi-platform experience that brings you the events in the way that you want was only possible given the previous technology investments we’ve made over the years. It does feel like this Olympics experience is a glimpse into the future of TV where the viewer has the choice of when, where, and how they want to watch. I can’t wait for you to try it and hope you take a moment to root for TeamUSA. It all starts on Feb 8th.
When your team works as hard and long on a project, like the experience we built for the 2018 Winter Olympics, its nice to step back and see what those outside your company think of what you shipped. And even better if it’s positive. 🙂 Here’s a roundup of my favorite clippings so far:
Engadget sat down at CES and offered a balanced view of the exclusive features that XFINITY customers will get on X1 and Stream App for the Winter Games.
Forbes piece highlighting our new virtual Olympics channels which dynamically pull together the best around key topics and sports which the journalist defined as “…the result feels like the future.” Article talks about blurring the lines between traditional TV and streaming.
With my friend and neighbor Jim Kozimor announcing Curling for NBC I was thrilled to see Bloomberg pickup on how our virtual channels are a great way to catchup on one of the most unique of Olympic sports.
Variety grasped the key behavioral change we’re seeing in PyeongChange of Voice Searching. We are seeing nearly 50% of all traffic to the Olympics Home screen come from the X1 Voice Remote… up 2X from Rio in 2016. Voice searching is just so natural it’s becoming dominant.
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.
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.
And 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.”
There 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):
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?
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… 🙂
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. 🙂
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.
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. 🙂
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:
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.
This 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:
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.
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…