TSN’s Canada Head Shares Lessons to Satisfy Digital Audience

The Sports Network (TSN), Canada’s top sports channel, is embracing its digital audience in a big way by providing great content, removing barriers, turning to social media, focusing on the user experience, and showing some personality.

A keynote by Mark Silver, head of digital at TSN, kicked off ClickZ Live Toronto today. In his keynote, “Satisfying Your Audience: Lessons Learned From Canada’s Digital Sports Leader,” he discussed what TSN is doing and how they’re doing it.

1. Content

Silver said TSN believes content comes first, and they highlight that through their shows and digital channels.

“When it comes to sports and TSN, it’s not about us. It’s about the content,” he said. “It’s about the performance of athletes. Performance of talent. It’s the athletic prowess and superhuman accomplishments that give us the get up and go to do what we do.”

2. Remove Barriers

TSN isn’t limited to television, thanks to TSN GO. TSN lets its audience view its two (soon to be five) channels however they want, whether it’s on a computer, phone, or tablet.

“It doesn’t matter what device,” Silver said. “We try to eliminate all barriers to consumption for our audience.”

Thinking mobile-first, Silver said we can expect a new-look responsive TSN website to roll out fully near back-to-school time.

3. Social

According to Silver, the real magic is in social. He used a couple of examples, Play of the Year and 1V1, to show how TSN is engaging fans who are passionate about their favorite teams, plays, and players.

For Play of the Year, TSN created a tournament of 32 hockey highlights and had fans pick the best plays, with the intensity picking up with every round. Their audience was highly engaged along the way, posting their Play of the Year picks on Facebook and Twitter. Even some players and teams urged their fans to vote.

“That’s something you can’t pay people to do,” Silver said. “That only happens because of how engaged and passionate they are.”

Last year, the POI microsite got 1.5 million total votes, 12 million page views, and 145 million sponsor impressions. This year, he said they have already surpassed 3 million votes.

1V1 is a new venture that pits a reigning highlight “champion” against a new contender from the previous night. Their audience can vote until 3 p.m. every day for a winner, which is then announced at 6 p.m., and a new challenger is picked at 2 a.m. It repeats day in and day out, keeping their audience engaged.

4. User Experience

TSN targets the hardcore fans, with properties dedicated to hockey and golf fans, for example. Silver said TSN wants to give fans “the best experience you can envision.”

Additionally, TSN will have pages for its five local radio stations. Instead of trying to serve a national audience, TSN’s new sites will cover nine major sports markets and deliver user and ad-centric experiences.

With TSN’s GameTracker, TSN’s goal was to create an experience meant to contain the user.

“It doesn’t matter what channel the game is on. What matters is experience – stats, player performance, hits, goals scored – that’s what’s important.”

GameTracker also integrates video and commentary from Twitter.

5. Add Some Personality

TSN created a sub-brand called BarDown, which mixes pop culture and sports. Silver said it is a “nice brand promotion of who we are and shows that we like to have fun.”

According to Silver, this video is one creative example of what BarDown offers its audience:

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