SVG Sit-Down: CSN Bay Area/California’s David Koppett on Integrating Linear, Digital at the RSN Level

The new VP of content strategy oversees events, networks, original content, programming, and digital-media initiatives

At the end of 2016, Comcast SportsNet (CSN) Bay Area and California — the regional sports network (RSN) home of teams like the Golden State Warriors, San Francisco Giants, San Jose Sharks, and more — named industry vet David Koppett to the newly created position of VP of content strategy.

Koppett, who has been with the San Francisco-based networks since 2008 and has been in the industry for more than three decades, is entrusted with the task of overseeing a significant portfolio of events, networks, original content, programming, and digital-media initiatives for the network.

SVG sat down with Koppett to discuss how he’s adjusting to his new role and how he is looking to further integrate the linear and digital worlds by changing the mindset of content creators at all levels.

David Koppett

David Koppett

For a while now, CSN Bay Area and CSN California have made a conscious effort to have the digital team dialed in and working alongside the linear team. So much so that the teams have been sharing office space for some time, tracking some of the same data and using a lot of the same facilities and technology. In what ways has CSN Bay Area/California been at the forefront when it comes to stepping into the digital world?
You put your finger on it. It’s always been an important goal for us to have our content departments work as one. Three arms of the same content presentation: game production, studio operation for television, and our digital efforts on web and social [media]. Honestly, we have to do that even more. We’ve made an effort to do it, and I think we have done it reasonably effectively, but I don’t think even we are where we need to be in terms of integration.

It goes beyond just using the same technology or sitting in the same room: we really have to think with one brain. [We need to] plan today’s content of Giants baseball with one mind at the beginning of the day with a multiplatform distribution plan, determining which pieces of content are going to which platforms at which parts of the day. We are still developing that, every day.

So I don’t think that integration is as deep as it needs to be or as is going to be. We’re continuing to work on that every day to get us truly integrated in our mental and planning process.

Your new position and your newly created title represent that exact mindset. As you have started to get comfortable in this new role, what are some of your big goals? Why was this position created, and what’s your vision for how it fits into the bigger puzzle?
You’re right, this is the reason for this position to be created. It was a recognition that we are not TV producers and web producers, pregame producers and in-game producers anymore. We are content producers. Fans expect the most important piece of content and the most relevant piece of content of the team they love to be delivered to them at the moment they want it on the device and platform that they want it. That is the reason for this position to exist: to bring all of those pieces together and deliver them in the right way.

We have a lot of the types of content that people want. We have exclusive game-presentation rights. That’s Boardwalk, Park Place, beachfront property. But there’s 21 other hours of the day, and there’s a lot of other platforms in which people are consuming content. We have that content. We have insiders covering these teams. We have great performers on social media. We have great personalities on television. Fans want to consume all of that content from us, but it’s up to us to figure out how we deliver it to them through the right platform and the right moment.

When it comes to live social video, Facebook Live is becoming huge. And you have other avenues to pursue as well on Twitter and Instagram. What is your approach there, and how active have you been in that space? What are the ultimate goals for a network like yours? Is it simply drawing awareness to the game broadcast that night, or are there other goals in addition to that?
We have started to develop dedicated products for that space. I’d say the most prominent right now is a show called Warriors Outsiders. It’s a partially fan-driven show that airs on Facebook Live the morning after every Warriors game. We’ve really started to get some traction with that. Obviously, the Warriors are a very popular property right now. Earlier this year, we had an episode after the Warriors-Cavs game and show in the hundreds of thousands for reach on Facebook.

While we feel this is an important space and we are developing programming for it, honestly, it’s a space in which we have to be careful. Periscope, Instagram. Facebook, wherever it may be: those are not our platforms. We have to live in those platforms and reach the users that are there, but it’s also very important to get fans of our teams to our platforms. In those ways, it’s both an asset and something we have to be wary of, and there’s a constant balance there for us. As we continue to develop this space, we are always going to have to be mindful of that balance.

Are any technology trends catching your eye? Live social media? Virtual reality? Smart TVs? Apps? Is there an avenue you are excited to go down or see how it develops over the near term?
It’s such a complicated landscape. You just mentioned several that we are keeping our eyes on. Teams and leagues have been getting more involved in VR, and our company has pieces of some of the companies that are doing that. So that’s one we are keeping a close eye on. [But] we don’t think it’s really close in terms of regular live sports distribution.

4K is another space that we are already using as a production tool within the game broadcast, but we are keeping an eye on that in where it’s going to go in terms of distribution. A lot of that is driven by the distribution side: if and when our providers decide they want 4K content, it’s probably when we will be fully engaged there.

I think social live video is a huge one. The ability to go live from anywhere at any time and reach a large audience is really new. I mean we’re talking about an explosion only over a year or two. We’re trying to develop content that is appropriate for it and leverage the content that we already have in those areas.

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