Fred Kirsch, NE Patriots, Lauren Brousell, CIO Magazine
Fred Kirsch, NE Patriots, Lauren Brousell, CIO Magazine
September 26, 2014
Episode: 80
Fred Kirsch
Chief Digital Officer
New England Patriots
Lauren Brousell
Staff Writer
CIO Magazine

Fred Kirsch is the Publisher and Vice President of Content, Kraft Sports Productions (which includes the New England Patriots, New England Revolution, and Gillette Stadium). Fred functions as a Chief Digital Officer for the Patriots and is active building and deploying new technologies to enhance the fan experience.

Lauren Brousell will co-host CxO-Talk for this episode. She is a staff writer for CIO Magazine.

Video Transcript: Fred Kirsch, NE Patriots, Lauren Brousell, CIO Magazine

Michael:         

(00:06) Hello and welcome to episode number 80 of CXOTalk and today is the CXOTalk for sports fans. I’m Michael Krigsman and as always I’m here with my deliriously friendly co-host, Vala Afshar, Mr. Afshar how are you

Vala:   

(00:23) Michael how are you I’m doing great.

Michael:         

(00:25)And today we have not one but two guests. We have Fred Kirsch who we think of as the chief Digital Officer for the New England Patriots and we have a guest co-host, Lauren Brousell, who is a staff writer for CIO Magazine who is going to join the discussion today.

Vala:   

(00:49)Hi Everyone.

Michael:         

(00:50)Hi everyone.

Fred:   

(00:52)Michael did I just hear you call Vala delirious?

Michael:         

(00:55) I did thank you for noticing and I couch to the term of delirious, thank you this was good, so I think we’re off to an excellent start.

Vala:   

(01:03) This is going to be a long show.

Michael:         

(01:04)I think so. This show is flying by like lightening.

Vala:   

(01:09)Fred, you are one of the most innovative people I know and not just sports in general. I mean Patriots have a long history, you have a long history of bringing technology and using technology to business,. For example I believe the Patriots were the first team sport to have a web site into the country, 1995. Is that right.

Fred:   

(01:30)That’s correct. Early 1995, I think the first sports team in the world actually and you know to have one on the World Wide Web back in January of ’95.

Vala:   

(01:42)That’s amazing, so tell us a little about yourself and I just want the audience to appreciate that we’re talking to you know truly a technology innovator and someone who is focused on digital business information. So with that Fred, please.

Fred:   

(01:57) I came from a publishing background, you know the old ink stain background and had done publishing before I joined the Patriots back at the end of ’94. The reason I joined the Patriots was to start their weekly newspaper, Patriots (Football Weekly, which we still print today. But as you all know right around that time the World Wide Web was really taking off, and Johnathan Craft who is so progressive in this field and so aggressive in this field said, you know, we have to be the first.

(02:28) So we quickly had a website and it just quickly became apparent to me that it’s just publishing, whether it’s digital or print it’s all publishing. And so you know from that point on we just were always trying to stay ahead of the field particularly in the NFL, but also sport with giving our fans the latest.

(02:52)So we were the first to have a live – well not a live but to have an internet nightly video show, back I the day of ’97. It was called Patriot Cyber Sideline. It’s still around today, we call it Patriots today, but it was the first made for the internet video show nightly.

(03:13)Again that wasn’t just sports, we did pay-per-view on the internet before I think Victoria Secret might have beaten us to it but we were right behind them.

(03:24) You know I worked with Mark Cubin back when he was with Audio net putting up live conferences back in’97. Since then of course you know, were in the forefront of developing apps and looking at wearables right now.

(03:41)And the whole idea is creating value for our fans. You know putting content where they want it rather than making them come to you. Putting content wherever they want it, whenever they want it, however they want it.

Michael:         

(03:57) You know you talk about the it’s just publishing whether it’s print or its online, but that surprises me a little bit, because aren’t there such dramatic changes that have to take place when you make the jump from print to online in terms of the technology skills, the culture of getting things done very quickly and isn’t that a key part of the transformation.

Fred:   

(04:23)Well I think what you’re talking about is the age old adage of know your audience. If our audience is going to mobile we have to be on mobile and if that means crafting our content a little bit differently, you know for shorter time for consuming it, we have to do that.

(04:46) Another thing that we’ve done just recently, we’ve launched a lifestyle section for Patriots.com and all our digital properties. Because you know, we realize that being a Patriots fan is kind of a lifestyle. It’s not just Sunday watching it at the stadium on on TV. A lot of people you know, it gets into recipes, it gets into travelling to away games. It gets into the type of fashion that you wear when you come to the stadium.

(05:13) So we started Patriots.com/lifestyle a couple of weeks ago, and now we have a home for all this you know, huge amount of content that we never would have published on Patriots.com and believe it or not a lot of the stuff is beating out the straight football content on our site.

(05:33) So I’ll give you an example. A couple of days ago our lifestyle editor, Rhianna Palmer published 22 cheap things to wear to a Patriot game. All day yesterday, that was at the top of our rankings for content consumed.

Vala:   

(05:47) That’s awesome.

Lauren:          

(05:49) Fred, how has the video strategy evolved since the launch of the first website, and now all the way up to the emergence of mobile apps.

Fred:   

(05:59) Well I mean we’ve had video on our site since ’97 and we were way ahead of it, and everyone know that back then you had dial up modems and you had to film a certain way.

(06:10) You know now I said publishing is just publishing, now video is just video. You can watch it anywhere on any device. But I think the big thing now is the emergence of pre-roll which you know a few years ago really started taking off, and I think all the publishers and advertisers they look at that of where they make their big money. So there’s this huge emphasis on video.

(06:34) I just came from a meeting with the ESPN this morning and you’ll see some re-designs on their websites coming up pretty soon. You know ESPN is obviously the broadcaster and digital properties and they are going to be emphasizing video big time. That’s where you know, it’s a business after all and that’s where they feel the money can be made.

(06:55) And now you can just watch it anywhere and they just feel like consuming video is really the future, at least the video future.

Michael:         

(07:04) Fred, how much do you speak with folks like ESPN and other television providers and other digital providers to kind of share ideas and how much do they learn from you, how much do you learn from them. How does that work?

Fred:   

(07:22) Well I mean you know we have pretty close relationships with the major broadcasters obviously because they’re spending billions of dollars with the NFL.

(07:31) So they come in on a Thursday if they have a game here with their truck and they're actually leveraging the infrastructure here. We have our own broadcasting department right here in the stadium. We produce all our pre-season games. We produce three television shows a week, so you know, we have a vested interest in keeping up to date with all the latest video techniques and toys and everything.

(07:58) We filmed something in my office just yesterday and the guys showed up with this new camera, I said, what the heck is this, I’ve never seen it before and it’s 4D.

(08:07) You know we’re getting ready for you know the new 4D TV’s that are coming out there, and even although we can’t really take advantage of it right now, we’re getting ready for it. So we’ve got some of those cameras in house so we can start filming in 4D and you know start getting practice with that. so when it becomes critical mass and a lot of consumers have these new TV’s we’ll already have content ready for it.

Vala:   

(08:30) What’s amazing to me Fred is that last time I checked the waiting list for Patriot season tickets, I don’t know is it 10 years with tens of thousands waiting.

Fred:   

(08:43) Yeah, it’s about 40,000 people yeah so actually we didn’t get anyone off the waiting list this year, but if you’ve been on the waiting list since about 2002, you might get a season ticket next year.

Vala:   

(08:58) Again so that’s unbelievable. So here you are, 40,000 people are dying to get into the stadium for every home game and yet you guys are leading in my view NFL in terms of technology and fan experience. Certainly you’ve proved that with the roll out of the mobile app and Wi-Fi throughout the stadium. What’s motivating the Craft family and yourself, when frankly you have an entire stadium of people waiting to join the current 68,000 that come every Sunday.

Fred:   

(09:31) Well first of all we know it’s not going to always be that way, and the reason it is that way now is because we’re winning. You know when the Crafts bought the team in ’94, that’s when that started selling out because fans said, you know what, we’re happy that we finally have a local owner who is not going anywhere, who really wants to bring championships and they’ve rewarded him with selling this place out.

(09:56) But since that time, even before Belichick, we’ve started to have a good team and we’ve led so and Bill Parcels and really good players. So winning is the key to all of this.

(10:07)Then you talk about, okay, what drives you to keep innovating. You know I think that when you’re un-encumbered to having to sell tickets every day like some teams you can do more things. You know it’s like back in the Stone Age when all of a sudden they discovered fire and they could cook their food and invent the wheel and things were quicker.

(10:29) Now, the more easier you make life the more you can innovate and the fact that we don’t have to get up every morning and think about how are we going to sell tickets to sell out the stadium, allows us the time and the resources to innovate. I really believe that, we’re very fortunate to be sold out and not have to spend every waking moment to try to figure out how to sell tickets and not every team is like that unfortunately.

Lauren:

(10:55) On the flipside of that, how do you kind of attract new fans and customize the experience for them, so that they’ll keep coming back and maybe join that 40,000 person waiting list for a season ticket.

Fred:   

(11:07) Yeah, I mean that’s a good question. Like I said earlier, we just started the lifestyle section, so we’re hoping to bring in a whole new group of fans that you know have always followed the Patriots, but not necessarily you know into the x’s and O’s and into the hardcore analysis. So now we have content for those people to come in and visit us.

(11:28) You know so that’s one way and the other thing is Vala, you mentioned the wait list. When you become a member of the waitlist for the Patriots, you’re not simply waiting for tickets. There are benefits to becoming a waitlist member.

(11:40) First of all you get access to any event that comes to the stadium. So for example, this year One Direction had three concerts. So if you were a waitlist member, you got first crack at buying tickets to those concerts or to any other concert that comes here before they are available to the general public.

(12:00) You get a discount into Pro-shop, you get newsletters – I’m trying to think of some of the other benefits, but there is tangible benefits to being on the waitlist. It sort of like a club even before you actually get your tickets.

Michael:         

(12:14) So you’re really transforming the business, the pressures of the market in terms of the availability obviously of high definition TV’s at home have become your competition and so all of this is about creating a set of unique experiences using digital that goes just beyond just that same day game experience.

Fred:   

(12:43) Yeah, it’s true I wouldn’t call it competition though because we might you know what you are saying is compete with the home to get people here they are still all our fans. So basically what we need to do is serve both sets and you know, do that in a unique way so that if you like the live experience, make that live experience as good as it can be. So that its distinct from the home.

(13:13) You know I have said it before and I may have said on CXOTalk before that you know cost, comfort, and convenience – the stadium can’t compete with that. There is just no way, you can’t compete with a $700, 50 inch screen and a couch and a bathroom five steps away, and your fridge two steps away. The stadium can’t compete with that.

(13:36) But what the home can’t compete with is the energy, and the excitement, and the entertainment, and the camaraderie that you get with being with 70,000 people. So we have to make that experience as unique as we can, not really compete with the home but make it separate but equally as exciting.

(13:58) So you know, I pay as much attention to the people at home you know, second screen is big for me. While we can’t control the CBS or ABC broadcast we can control the second screen. So giving people contend that they can use while they are watching the game is important to me as well.

Vala:   

(14:16) You know you talked a little bit about wearable technology and new technology perhaps to improve the experience. You know when Zuckerberg purchased Oculus Rift he talked about you know fans sitting at courtside being able to use augmented reality and have that courtside experience. We were working with a company Cloud Optics and we had a referee at a rugby match where Google glass and then streamed that experience to television. But even more importantly you can stream potentially glass to glass, so that any fans in the stadium wearing glass could have the perspective of the referee on the field. Do you see at some point leverage  video or some of these new technologies, augmented reality or wearable technology to really enhance the fan experience where they feel they are on the field.

Fred:   

(15:15) The Oculus Rift stuff is so exciting, but from a team standpoint it is incredibly expensive. Not the device but having those cameras that are specifically set up to support the 3-D immersion experience. That’s going to be really tough to do by a venue by venue situation.

(15:39) You know, just for example I think every coach would agree in the NFL, boy they should have goal-line technology, so that they have a camera on the goal line at every stadium. But even that is hard because every stadium is different, you know where do you place the cameras, the cost of the cameras. So that’s been talked about for almost a decade now and it still hasn’t happened.

(16:03) I think the Oculus Rift thing is great in theory, but I think that’s a long way from becoming part of the TV viewing experience – I mean the in stadium viewing experience.

(16:13) I think you know what you might have is using Oculus Rift to add to maybe the home experience where all of a sudden you throw this on you can still see the game.  But like you said you are getting all of this additional information, without even to have to use your hands. I think that’s cool.

(16:31) But I think there are other wearable technology, Apple watches are going to come out next year and I can see a lot of developers you know doing quick little apps for that, whether it’s you not checking stats really quickly or your Twitter feed during the game, or connecting with others and maybe even a little video on the watch. I can see that happening.

(16:51) Google glass, probably we’ve looked at Google glass. There is some hurdles there because of battery life and in our case being outdoors with Google glass it really doesn’t do that well afterwards. But eventually something like Google glass, if not Google glass itself will become part of the in stadium viewing experience.

(17:13) Oculus Rift is a whole new different ballgame that has a hell of a lot more potential, but it’s going to be a lot harder to implement in a stadium.

Lauren:          

(17:23) When looking at all of these new technologies and starting to adopt some of them, one by one, how does that change the Patriots as a company in terms of new technology, infrastructure or staffing or investments that you have to make.

Fred:   

(17:40) So basically are you asking how do we decide what to do over another thing.

Lauren:          

(17:46) Yeah, you know has that caused you to bring in more people with different expertise.

Fred:   

(17:52) Well you not we have always had a philosophy here of vendor soup, so sometimes it’s rather better to buy than build, so we tap a lot of experts in the field and we have them under NDA, so whenever we need help we know where to go.

(18:10) But we have staffed a little bit differently, I mean we certainly have more people in our digital department than we ever had. And lately, the NFL you have probably heard about it launched a new initiative called NFL Now, which is an app that you can download to go to Xbox, iPhone, android, Locu and you can watch all of this really really great NFL video anywhere and you can personalize it and all that.

(18:37) But for us, there was a mandate for each team to now create content for NFL Now and so each team has to come up with I think 40 distinct pieces of different content per week for NFL Now. And it’s caused a lot of teams to have to staff up because of it, so including us.

(19:02) So behind all of this technology it always comes down to people.

Vala:   

(19:05) But you have like the data scientists or mobile app developers or social and community talent on your staff or part of the Patriots in-house organisation.

Fred:   

(19:18) Yeah we have a social media manager whose name is Christie Berkery, you know that’s obviously a new position since I think 2008 I think is when we actually had someone assigned to that. But you know, the dirty little secret in the NFL and really in all sports leagues is that when you get down to the team level, you know it’s not this huge level of staff of people making all this happen. They are very thinly staffed and everyone is wearing many hats. So it’s not as glamorous on the inside as it might look on the outside.

(19:58) You know, teams don’t have the luxury to just do anything anytime they want and there is no one sitting around waiting for an assignment, everyone is tapped and you know, their day is full.

Michael:         

(20:09) You have been developing apps as well so you are an app developer.

Fred:   

(20:16) We architect the apps but we have outside developers that develop our apps. We use two different companies mainly for our two different apps. We have what I call our everyday app, our official Patriots app or a 305 day app. And then we have an app specifically for people coming to the stadium for games. I like to keep them separate because I hate having an app where only certain people can use part of the app.

(20:47) So our game day app is just for people coming to the app and its completely separate from our 365 day app. And those are done by outside developers but we help blueprint it, it’s all our ideas and what we want in it and then they make it really look cool.

Lauren:          

(21:05)Now you are in the second year of the game day live apps, so what are some of the lessons learned from last year and how is it going this year.

Fred:   

(21:12) Well to be honest with you it’s our fourth year. Before 2012 we’ve had it in our club, so we’ve had game day live app in the club since 2010. So if you want to call it piloting or soft launching it, we’ve had it for use with just club members with our Wi-Fi in the clubs since 2010.

(21:36) In 2012 we put Wi-Fi with extreme networks throughout all of the Gillette Stadium and made it free for all the fans, and that’s when we took the same app, game day live but then we made it available to all our fans in the stadium.

(21:51) So you know, some of the lessons learned with the app, well the first lessons learned is that we have fans of varying degrees of technical knowledge. So quickly we realized that we need to have support people in the stadium on game day. So, with extreme networks we have what we call Wi-Fi coaches and we had them since 2012.

(22:14) These are people who roamed the stadium on game day, they have very visible clothing that say Wi-Fi coach on it and they interact with fans who are on their phones, needs help having trouble connecting to Wi-Fi, you know you don’t really know the ins and outs of the app itself, so they are helping them.

(22:32) And the other thing besides helping the fans is that they give me feedback after every game. So they’ll let me know that there was someone in 112 who has trouble you know with a Wi-Fi or there is this person wasn’t able to use the app sufficiently or the bathroom away time wasn’t working in one of the bathrooms.

(22:53) So I get all of that feedback after the game and it’s really invaluable to me. We can act on that that week and you know correct it for the next game.

Michael:         

(23:02) Fred, you’re investing a lot of money and that this kind of digital infrastructure, which includes Wi-Fi throughout the stadium and the apps and so forth. What’s the return on this investment and how do you measure it, and what are the Crafts along the same lines, what are the Crafts expectations of you in terms of demonstrating the value of this digital infrastructure.

Fred:   

(23:30) Well I’ll go back to what I said when we first started this conversation. Jonathan Craft is aggressive, ambitious and gets it. He understands technology and he understood before 2012 that Wi-Fi is going to be a cost of doing business at Gillette Stadium, and it was just a matter of finding the right partner to put it in and we did that with extreme networks.

(23:54) But like I said it’s a cost of doing business, you know think of how connected people are with their phones these days and how much it’s part of their lives. Forget about leverage in the technology for one moment, but just think about yourself if you go into an event that you have spent all of this money to go to it’s really important, it’s really special, you can’t wait to be there. You go to upload your first photo that you take and you can’t connect. Whether it is because the Wi-Fi stinks or we don’t have Wi-Fi, or the DAS system isn’t robust enough to handle.

(24:27) You know, sure it’s not the end of the world but it takes away a little bit from the event that you just intended, and then to have that happen repeatedly throughout the event, you know it starts to add up and it starts to become a negative.

(24:42) So forget about leverage in Wi-Fi, just having Wi-Fi I think is a cost of doing business because connectivity is expected by the fans. You know, Vala, you know the stats because you Tweet about 1 million times a day on the subject but you know how many people have smart phones compare to toothbrushes in the world. There are more smart phones than toothbrushes in the world, I know that because I follow you on Twitter.

(25:11) So you know, it starts with that, it starts with having that foundation to allow people to connect and use their phone. Now once you have a robust platform, now you can start to build on it more and like Lauren you mentioned with the game day live app. So I wouldn’t put that app out unless I had Wi-Fi because it would be a bad experience for people trying to access video. But with the Wi-Fi I feel comfortable offering them NFL red zone and live replays and highlights of the game right after it happened, and checking stats because I know that they will be able to connect.

(25:45) So then to be on that you know, we can do game day giveaways, where if you are on the Wi-Fi network and you opt in you can win a prize right there at the game, and in the third quarter we can deliver something to you, just as a thank you for being at the games. So we can do all kinds of things like that. In seat ordering for food and you know it’s endless.

(26:07) But you know we are going to learn as we go and figure out how to leverage this and as people get more comfortable you know doing these types of digital things during games, you know will start to adapt to their needs and their wants.

Lauren:          

(26:23) With the addition of the Wi-Fi in the mobile apps now, you are probably pulling in more customer data than ever before. So what are some insights that you have got from that so far.

Fred:   

(26:34) Well with the Wi-Fi we actually don’t. Like in a hotel for example, when you connect to their Wi-Fi you know it can ask for your name and room number and there is sort of this captive portal that you have to go through first. We don’t do that.

(26:48) We made a business decision to just allow people to come and connect and do what they want. So we don’t actually capture a lot of – we don’t capture any information when they come and use our Wi-Fi. But when I talked about the game day giveaway, at that point will start capturing seat row, section number, email address and cellphone number because we have to contact them to give them their prize. But like you said, now that stuff will all go into our CRM.

(27:17) So there is a big frontier there for getting all of that information, but right now we are still at about I would say it may be less than a third of the people in the stadium using the Wi-Fi. So we are letting people get their feet wet and you know, we will start to build on it as we go along.

Michael:         

(27:39) So you say it was a business decision not to force people to log in. What are some of the other business decisions that come to mind as you have been undertaking this digital transformation?

Fred:   

(27:56) You mean specifically Wi-Fi or just everything.

Michael:         

(27:59) No just in any aspect, you have been embracing all of this digital technology and I am sure that there are trade-offs that you have to make along the way, and investment decisions that you are making saying, we are going to choose to invest and innovate here, but not there.

Fred:   

(28:17) You know without naming certain brands, but you know there is basically two platforms that people are on in mobile and we know what they are. So we build towards that.

(28:29) You know, there are a couple of others out there that would love us to do it, but right now there’s just not enough people on those platforms and mobile to really you know make it worth our while. And frankly we don’t really hear from fans saying, how comes you don’t have it for my phone. So that would be an example of a business decision that we have made to build for iOS and for android exclusively.

(28:58) Could that change? Absolutely. You know we are open to anything, but like you said at some point there has to be a return on investment just in terms of usage and if there isn’t going to be that then you know, we make that decision not to build on that platform at this point.

Vala:   

(29:17) So Fred, we’ve had over the last few months some of the top venture capital experts from Boston to silicon valley, on the show and talk about mobile, social, Cloud, wearables and Internet of things and so on and so forth. It’s fascinating to see how these VC’s are investing in technology. And I know as part of your responsibility with the Craft family, you are asked to assess in terms of technology investment – and not just for the Patriots, but for the entire Craft portfolio. So I know in the past when we spoke, you work with start-ups, you work with colleges and universities like MIT and others. Can you share a little bit of insight in terms of you know, what do you look for when you are assessing a young company or start-up before you not ask them to become a partner and invest in their solution.

Fred:   

(30:15) Well when I’m looking at it for the Crafts it has to be something somewhat in their you know line of interest. Something that they get. It’s really hard to you know, you should invest in this if you have not really interest in that subject matter.

(30:32)So it starts with that and then you know just like any other person vetting something, you want to look at what the competition is. What problem are they solving, and if they are not solving a problem is this technology so cool that it’s going to create a need.

(30:54) That’s really hard to do, be more patents that you have obviously or patent pending, that’s really important to because you know it so easy for just one of the big companies to just come in and blow away a start-up.

(31:10) So you have to have some protection, some intellectual property protection in place, and we always look for that.

(31:16) Then when I look at a business plan, if they are talking about that exit strategy too soon, then that draws a red flag. They are thinking about being bought too soon before they actually think about getting revenue. Now you know, you will throw Twitter in my face obviously, but that was such a disruptor that you know those only come aroundI don’t know, maybe three times every 10 years, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Michael:         

(31:49) Fred, these comments that you were just making does that apply to it technology that you are considering adopting and using or technology where you are looking to make an investment.

Fred:   

(31:58) That really more to an investment. The stuff that we are using, I always put myself in the position of the fan. If I was a fan – which I am, you know would I find this cool, would I use it. Or would I use it once and then you know say it’s cool but not use it again. So I look for sustainability, ease of use.

(32:23) You know, fans aren’t really looking to make their lives more complicated with technology, they are looking for it to enhance in what they are already doing and make it easy to use. So you know, UI is really important UX is really important.

(32:38) You know, did the company really spend the time you know vetting all the UI and UX and putting it in forums and having people touch it, because you know I don’t want to have to spend time you know going over that with them and you know really doing their job for them. So when it comes to stuff that the Patriots are actually going to use, we are looking for really bullet-proof stuff. Stuff that’s been tested and is ready to hit the market in you know whether it’s our website or our app or whatever, you know it’s just bullet-proof.

Vala:   

(33:18) How much of that assessment is the team versus the technology. Can you think of a scenario where you may be didn’t have the solid business plan up front, but your team and the members gave you a enough confidence to partner with them and over time they were able to deliver to your needs.

Fred:   

(33:41) I don’t want to give the impression that everything that we have done has succeeded. There’s a lot of things that I’ve tried over the last 20 years that have died on the vine, whether it’s the company that we were working with ran out of money and we weren’t willing to fund them, or it just didn’t get the fan adoption that we thought it would. Or I just made a mistake, frankly.

(34:10)But through all this trial and error, I think I’ve become pretty keen on figuring out that yeah this is going to work and this won’t work. So I find that I make less mistakes now than I used to, but I’m also a lot more cynical now than I used to be because I’ve seen all this stuff.

(34:27) You know, I’ll give you an example. You know every company now, social is huge. Everybody, if they weren’t on social platforms three years ago, everybody is on it now. So now it’s how do I leverage this you know, I have all of these accounts how do I get data out of it, how do I make use of that data.

(34:47) So there‘s all of these companies now that really all they are doing is overlaying on the stats that for example, Facebook and Twitter already provide and then put it in really pretty packages.

(35:00)You know, I see right through that and I think you are better off than spending tens of thousands with these companies every year, just hiring one person.

Phone interruption

(35:13)Just hiring one person who can manipulate all this data and put it in a nice executive type dashboard for you and have that person in-house. because that is all these companies are doing is just using information that is already out there. They are not really giving you something that doesn’t exist.

(35:32) So I’m very wary about all that kind of stuff and I feel that through the 20 years I’ve developed a pretty keen eye for that.

Michael:         

(35:42) The Crafts have given you it seems a very strong mandate to innovate the fan experience using technology, and presumably the goal is to flow down to continue support from your fans.

Fred:   

(35:57) Absolutely, one thing about the Crafts is that they never say no to a good idea. If you have a good idea and can back it up and it makes sense, more often than not they say all right run, let’s go do it. So now I’m going to get all of these emails from start-ups I’m sure.

(36:16) But it starts with them because they are so open to new ideas and so progressive that they are able to do all this stuff and I’ve been able to try and you know, succeed and fail with so many things over the years.

Lauren:          

(36:32) So there is this new buzz word out and about called Digital Enterprise and it’s basically a company that has all digital customer interactions, processes, all digital people’s jobs that are all digital and information that is easy to access and fast. So how close are the Patriots to that fully digital enterprise?

Fred:   

(36:55) Well be – you know tickets are big thing. We have a lot of season-ticket holders as we talk about, so we will be giving our fans more and more tools, working with Ticketmaster our partner to be able to allow people to do paperless ticketing, to be able to transfer tickets right up to before the game, all digitally using their phone instead of their ticket to get into the gate. You know so that is one example of you know using the enterprise.

(37:25) You know, internally we use a product called Zen Desk for all of our customer service across all of our departments and it really is a good way for us to you know not just know what fans are saying but able to respond, keep track of all of our responses to the fans until completion to make sure that you know, it’s not over until the customer says it’s over. Then you can close it out. It’s not when you think it’s over, so that’s a product that helps us do that.

(37:58) In our business though I don’t think you could ever go completely digital. I think you always have to have that interpersonal connection, especially when you get to the higher levels of our customer you know, our season-ticket holders, our club members, our suite members. They expect humans and they haven’t come to the point yet where they want to go digital completely, so we can’t.

Michael:         

(38:21) We have a question from Twitter, from Doug Hyde who asks, do you have a fan think tank for your apps it sounds like he wants to get involved somewhere.

Fred:   

(38:33) Yeah, we actually do, Jess Geldman, if you’re a big fan of digital and analytics and big data she started the MIT Sloan at this conference in Boston, and she’s our head of Biz staff and customer service, and she holds on the off-season fan for concessions all over on all different subjects. Whether it’s our content or coming to the game or you know our retail. So you could call those easily think tanks, where we have people actually come into the stadium and we have focus groups.

(39:14) And we also have emails that go out after every game, we’ll pick about 300 fans throughout the stadium to survey their experience and to ask them poignant questions to get you know really good responses and you know we build up that too.

(39:29) So we are constantly using that think tank mindset to make us better.

Lauren:          

(39:36) What’s the coolest idea that you have heard from fans in terms of technology or business.

Fred:   

(39:42) what’s the coolest thing I’ve heard from fans in terms of technology or business.

Vala:   

(39:48) And it’s a first reveal on our show we wouldn’t mind.

Fred:   

(39:52)Jezz I don’t know. The coolest thing I’ve heard from a fan you know, Lauren I have to think about that.

(40:03) You know, we have heard so many suggestions over the years.

Vala:   

(40:07) Was the foodservice from I mobile app and or any of the rest room waiting lines come from fans or just kind of audience enhancements that would both help serve a fan experience.

Fred:   

(40:24) The restroom wait time definitely comes from feedback from fans, not necessarily asking for a digital feature for that. But saying hey you need to tell people where the long lines are opposed to the short lines. So taking that feedback and using digital to solve a problem or at least contribute to solving a problem you know, so the genesis of it yes, that would come from fans and then us taking that feedback and applying digital to it. So you could say that is one example.

Vala:   

(40:56) Fred when can I come to a game where you guys are using gamification principles, so that I could perhaps bid for a touchdown ball that Tom Brady throws and if I’m the fortunate highest bidder which is unlikely in a 70,000 environment, but who knows. And then I can maybe I can win ball and go to the succession stand at the end and pick it up at the end of the game.

Fred:   

(41:18) Absolutely I mean I’ve talked about that for a few years now and that will come with you know as more and more people are comfortable, interacting with their phones during games you know we’ll offer that. Like you said, whether it’s a random drawing or an actual live option and you win something that was just used in the game and before you leave the stadium you’re walking out with it.

Michael:         

(41:44) So Fred, you know we have just a few minutes left and so you know, right now there’s just three of us.

Fred:   

(41:56) And what happened with Vala.

Michael          

(42:00) Sorry I meant that four, counting problem that I’ve had since a young age. So there is just the four of us and so what kind of secret things and projects do you have working on that you would like to confidentially just share with us at this moment.

Vala:   

(42:16) Us and Twitter.

Michael:         

(42:18) Oh yeah, that’s right I forgot all those people listening on Twitter.

Vala:   

(42:22) There are no magazine subscribers.

Fred:   

(42:24) Well I mentioned.

Michael:         

(42:27) There is a staff reporter for CIO magazine so pretend it’s just the four of us.

Fred:   

(42:32) I mentioned the Ticketmaster partnership that we are going to be doing and giving fans more features. That should be coming hopefully in early November or mid-November we will be adding that to our game date live app, you know we’ll be making that live.

(42:49) We’ll be expanding our in seat ordering to the 300 level, so that you can sit in your seat, order food and we will ping you when your food is ready and then you go to an express line. So we will be expanding that.

(43:01) So that’s in the short term, in the long-term Vala, like used said you mentioned wearables. We’ll definitely be looking at that and I can see us from 2015 having some type of app on Apple watch, at the minimum checking stats, play-by-play on the game so you know we will definitely be doing that.

(43:23) we were almost ready with an app with Google glass, but like I said glass has some work to do so we put that on the back burner, but when they are ready we are ready with that. So you know, that’s really no secret.

(43:41) There are some other things that we are looking at that I honestly can’t talk about, because I’m under NDA, but you know like I said we are always looking to enhancing the value of the fan experience.

Lauren:          

(43:54) So everybody’s been talking about Levi’s stadium, is that stadium of the future. So what do the Patriots think of that?

Fred:   

(44:01) I love it I think you know, the advantage of being built now as opposed to 14 years ago you have a little bit better view of what you are going to need technology wise. But I think we need more of that you know, so whether it’s refurbing old stadiums or building new ones, I think we all need to be looking at all the teams and all the sporting leagues need to be looking at how do we make things better for the fans at the games – not just at the games, but when they are watching on TV as well. Just how do we serve our fans better and create more value every year.

Vala:   

(44:41) Fred I think the Pats are 3 ½ point favorites up or down – now I’m kidding.

Michael:         

(44:49) Yeah, now comes the part where you know…

Vala:   

(44:52) No we will leave that for another show.

Fred:   

(44:54) That’s okay, that’s part of my job to talking about the Patriots from a football standpoint. So I’m predicting, I know the Patriots have a little trouble with the offensive line at the moment, but I’m predicting a 31 – 14 win in Kansas City Monday night.

Vala:   

(45:11) Wow

Fred:   

(45:13) Yeah 31 – 14

Vala:   

(45:18) You heard it here first folks

Michael:         

(45:19) So we’ll be in touch on a choose to morning and see how we get.

Fred:   

(45:22) Okay that’s fine.

Michael:         

(45:25) Well it’s, Vala we have learnt a lot about the fan experience today.

Vala:   

(45:29) It’s the fastest 45 minutes online and you some. God it so good to have another co-host with us.

Michael:         

(45:41) I have to think about hmmm.

Vala:   

(45:42) You know what I mean.

Michael:         

(45:43) I know what you mean, all right you have been watching show number 80 of CXOTalk. I’m Michael Krigsman, my co-host Vala Afshar. How about like a high five this time.

Vala:   

(45:54) Alright let’s do that.

Michael:         

(45:56) That no one can see because there is no high-five camera and today we’ve been talking with Fred Kirsch, who really plays the role of the chief digital officer at the New England Patriots and we are thrilled to have our guest co-host Lauren Brousell, who’s a staff recorder at CIO magazine has taken the time to join us today as well, and she’s a sports nut as well. Ain’t that true.

Vala:   

(46:25) That’s totally true.

Michael:         

(46:28) Fred thank you so much and we look forward to talking with you again soon.

Fred:   

(46:31) You’re welcome.

Michael:         

(46:32) Okay bye-bye.