Q&A Interview with Artie Bulgrin, SVP Research and Analytics, ESPN

ESPN is known for groundbreaking research so I sat down with Artie Bulgrin, SVP of Research and Analytics, ESPN to discuss some his department's trendsetting studies on consumer and viewer behavior. Artie also shared his thoughts on the future of "the screen", his work on the Fan Experience and his company's state of the art Media Lab.

There are four separate videos of the interview covering the following:

Video (Length in minutes)
Artie's Background (3:00)
The Fan Experience Research Study (8:16)
Media Lab (9:48)
CTAM (1:55)

CW: Artie, you are a member of the CTAM Research Committee. Can you tell us about your involvement with the committee?

AB: I look at the CTAM Research committee as a way to get together with really smart people, sharing work that we have done and also help guide the terrific research initiatives of CTAM. I also co-chaired one of the CTAM Research conferences. It has always been a fabulous conference and one that uniquely gets to issues that other conferences don’t. We continue to be avid supporters of CTAM on the research side because the type of research that CTAM does is different from other organizations and more specific to our needs. Our roots are still in cable television. We still need to know the needs of our operators and how we can grow our business together. We have issues like set top box measurement that need to be addressed. We now have the issues of addressability which need to be understood. There is more focus on these issues with this research committee which makes it very important to us.

Artie Bulgrin, Senior Vice President of Research and Analytics at ESPN talks to Charlene Weisler about how he got into the Research field and his work background in this video taken in June 2009:

CW: Where do you think is the most dramatic change in the industry has occurred in the past 5 years?

AB: When I came on board at ESPN thirteen years ago the focus was purely on cable television and television ratings. I think all of us on that side of the business who were focusing on strengthening audience measurement for cable networks realize that it has evolved. We have created multi-faceted research departments ranging from audience research, which is established, to primary research that measures consumer insights for building brands and understanding consumer behavior. For many of us, especially at ESPN, we are currently focused on really understanding cross media behavior. Not just television behavior but how people are using all digital outlets. We are in the audio business. We are in the print business. So it is not just about tv anymore. It’s about understanding the holistic viewer experience. We call it the “Fan Experience”.

CW: Can you share some insights about the “Fan Experience”?

AB: We have invested a lot of time and money in the past few years researching sports fan media behavior culminating most recently in a major study we did with Sequent Partners and Ball State University where we shadowed 50 young male sports fans to help understand how they use the individual media touch points, the role that sports and media play in the context of life itself. From that we created the seven principles of cross media measurement and behavior. The fundamentals are this: Sports fans consume much more media than the average American does because they have to consume sports in the moment. Very little sports on television is consumed on a time shifted basis. Virtually all of it is consumed live. There is this phenomena of “social currency” – big sports fans have to follow the information on a daily basis. So the new digital media, whether it be a PDA, a laptop, any sort of access to the web or web video has been embraced by the sports fans because they can be in contact with sports on a daily basis. So they consume a lot of sports but traditional media has not suffered. Media use is not a zero sum game. Media use continues to grow. And that is because these new digital technologies create what we call “new markets of time”. We have new opportunities to consume media where we never could before.

The other thing we know a lot about is the “available screen philosophy”. Television continues to thrive because if television is available it is certainly the best screen to watch sports. But if I can’t be near a tv I will go to my computer or what is really growing now is the use of mobile devices.  In fact it could be the most prolific and perhaps the most engaging device in the next few years.

Artie Bulgrin, Senior Vice President of Research and Analytics at ESPN talks to Charlene Weisler about ESPN's new research study on the "Fan Experience" in this video taken in June 2009:

Artie Bulgrin, Senior Vice President of Research and Analytics at ESPN talks to Charlene Weisler about his company's state of the art Media Lab located in Texas in this video taken in June 2009:

CW: Is there anything that you would like to add?

AB: The only thing I would add is that there is a lot of misinformation in the industry which slows us down. When you come to work each day there are things that come through the email or in the press that are actually ill-informed. What worries me is that many major decisions are made on this information that is actually misinformation. So we have to work harder as researchers both on the client side and on the vendor side to be more responsible as to how we communicate findings. There is a lot of bad research out there. There is a lot of great research out there. We have to be very focused as to how we separate what is mediocre and not good from what is. Researchers, particularly new researchers coming into the industry, have to focus on methodology quality – really understanding what works and what doesn’t. We have to be very careful of falling into the trap of doing “fun” things that fall into the qualitative area but are not really projectable to anything. We have to understand that the scientific method in research is absolutely necessary before producing results for decision making. It is not about one type of research – one type of research doesn’t do it. There are roles for different types of research – ethnography, set top box data, sample based data – it all has to be able to work together. That is why there is a need for trained professionals in the research industry to know what works and what doesn’t. 

Artie Bulgrin, Senior Vice President of Research and Analytics at ESPN talks to Charlene Weisler about the role of CTAM and the CTAM Research Committees in this video taken in June 2009:

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