It’s challenging but it's highly rewarding. Just be persistent, it's not easy, but it's worth it. It's worth the trouble.
The interview with Matt Chisamore-Robert was conducted via a phone conversation and later transcribed. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
1What do you see as the future in the growing in the world of sports media as the industry continues to change and evolve? How are you positioning yourself to adapt to the constant changes?
That’s the million dollar question right?
First and foremost for digital, I've been in this industry for 12 years now and the amount of change I've seen in that time, which is really just a snapshot of the industry as a whole, has been profound.
So I think as audiences become more and more fragmented and difficult to find, you have to fish where the fish are, and the fish aren't where they used to be.
I think you have to meet people where they are and on their terms. Give them content that is consumable in terms of their content.
For example, appointment television is long since dead I would argue. You have people who are watching tv but doing it with two screens so how do we engage them that way?
How do we get people to consume Sportsnet’s news offerings when they’re unlikely to stick around until 10pm to wait for Sportsnet Central?
It’s a constantly evolving battle. I think the amount of focus on data in terms of people’s consumption habits and the metrics that define what is a success and a failure is always changing and we have to be in front of that.
To answer the second part of your question, how do I navigate that? You have to have a team that is flexible, lean and ready to pivot on a moment’s notice.
As we’ve seen with the way the industry has gone, you can't afford to be shackled down by legacy workflows. It's important to at least be adaptable with the trends and also try to anticipate and be ahead of them.
I think that’s been my biggest challenge is that we’re feeding the audience what they want when they want it and where they are.
It's a challenge that keeps me up at night for many nights.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My title is production manager at Sportsnet so what I do is oversee a group of supremely talented content creators.
Our team’s mandate is to research, write, edit, produce, sometimes lend our personalities or voices to highlight driven content for a variety of platforms.
That includes linear, broadcast, non-linear, all of our digital, social, and YouTube for example. Anything you see on any of Sportsnet’s platforms that has an element of highlights or is highlight driven, odds are it comes from our department.
On a day-to-day basis, you’re fighting that balance of staffing games accordingly if there are 13 hockey games and 8 NBA games on in one night.
We have to make sure that we’re creating compelling highlight stories for those for all of our platforms and our partners. But also we have to make sure that we have social media components and that we’re blasting things out in real time.
We have to combine that with some of our long term stretch assignments. We have some franchises that we do on YouTube, some stuff for Sportsnet.ca so when you’re in the thick of a busy hockey night, you’re trying to just stay afloat.
You need to take care of your deliverables and move on to the next thing.
We’re also trying to balance that with some long standing meaningful project. A day is controlled chaos I’d say.
As for myself, I have a team of managers beneath me and a highly talented group who can work independently to a high standard. But it's a matter of managing, delegating and being a facilitator because my team just represents a fraction of the Sportsnet operation.
There’s a whole lot of symmetry and we have to make sure that there’s synergy to our content offerings and that we’re supporting all of our platforms and doubling up on our work. So it’s that sort of thing.
No day really looks the same, you have to be ready for anything. That’s the great thing about sports. There’s always something to talk about, good, bad or otherwise.
3Did you always want to be in this field? When did you decide sports media was your career focus? Would former teachers and/or friends be surprised that this was your career direction and focus?
No, to be honest, I’m not the best model for aspiring journalists to follow.
I got a Bachelor of Arts in media specialization, so I knew I wanted to be in the arts. I knew I wanted to do something a little more creative.
I knew I wasn't necessarily well suited to a 9-5 banker job but I completely fell into television.
Initially, I wanted to be a sports writer, I thought maybe when I graduated I could have a sports column or something like that. I graduated and had a bit of trouble finding a job, as often people do.
Randomly through an acquaintance, someone said that they did freelance work at Sportsnet. They told me to give them my resume and that they’d pass it on.
To be honest, I watched Sportsnet on TV incessantly but I’d never given a lot of thought as to what goes on behind the camera or behind the scenes.
I said sure, I have nothing to lose and that was 12 years ago so I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
While it wasn’t my stated goal where I wanted to land, I understand that it’s hard to get into the industry.
There are challenges but it’s supremely rewarding and the fact that you get to come to work every single day and do something different, quite impactful and entertain people especially with what’s going on now where people are looking for reasons to smile, be entertained or escape it’s very rewarding.
4What are some of the big creative challenges you face with content creation?
I think one of the challenges is speed. People aren’t gonna wait around for news.
If they’re not getting it from you, they’re gonna get it from someone who’s giving it to them quicker.
So from a content creation standpoint, we’re always mindful that we want to entertain a certain level of production value since you’re representing yourself and the brand, your partners in the NHL, MLB or whatever it happens to be.
But you have to be quick, so it's about navigating that balance between making this as good, compelling and engaging as I possibly can while also acting with speed.
Sometimes those two things don’t often work together so it's about finding that middle ground.
That’s why I say the emphasis on being first, or primacy I guess, is a challenge that sometimes we have to wrestle with in terms of how the product looks, sounds, feels because sometimes you just gotta get it out there.
5Which content mediums under your responsibility with the team do you enjoy working with the most? Which one is the most fascinating? Why?
I’m always preferential to broadcast because while a lot of people’s consumption habits are in the digital space, and a lot of our strategies are oriented in that direction, live events still drive the bus. So obviously Rogers has the NHL deal.
The other night when the Leafs and Habs were on you get a lot of eyeballs watching that. You get a Sportsnet Central news show coming out of that and you have an opportunity to capitalize on a whole lot of people watching your product.
So I have an affinity to broadcast for that reason. It is also what sort of got me into the industry.
In terms of the most fascinating, YouTube is pretty interesting to me. It seems to be among the platforms that maybe have the most direct revenue opportunities. I’m still learning about the algorithms and that sort of thing.
The performance metrics are really interesting to me. You can get real time feedback in terms of whether your products are performing and how to optimize them for that platform, things like watch time, impressions, duration, total views and things like where are people watching?
There aren’t just people from Canada watching, we have big audiences in Finland and Russia, so I find YouTube particularly interesting for that reason. There’s a whole lot of untapped opportunities there.
6What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
The most enjoyable part is that you get to entertain people. That’s really hit home now in the last 9-10 months more than it ever has.
People want to be entertained and it's a good way to engage them. Sports are supposed to be unifying. The fact that you can actually make a meaningful impact on someone's life is highly rewarding.
If you're also talking about it from the standpoint of a content creator, we’re a day-to-day business.
You start a shift and let’s say that you’re working the Leafs game, you get to see the fruits of your labour on tv across all our platforms consumed by millions of people that night. It's not like you're working on a project that may take 6 months to complete.
We do have stretch assignments but for the most part, it's on TV right away and you can see what you did. A lot of times you can hear yourself reading your stuff or behind a camera presenting your own content.
It's very satisfying, being able to see the fruits of your labour night after night on platforms that are serving people across the country.
7What would you recommend for people trying to get into the sports media industry?
In terms of advice...
The industry is big in scope but not so big in terms of the people, be persistent, it's not about who you know but more about who knows you. Bang down doors, talk to people.
I would say demo reels are important but especially know where people’s consumption habits are going, know social media. Don't just be active on social media, know how it works, how to optimize content for specific platforms, what the algorithms say.
Learn about the performance, metrics, learn how to monetize things because that is where the true value is. We want to meet people where they are, but we want to generate some revenue as well.
Know sports and have a passion for storytelling. At the end of the day, whether it's Sportsnet, TSN, ESPN, CBC, or Fox Sports, we’re all storytellers. You have to have that passion for storytelling. To take a large chunk of content be it football, basketball, hockey or a whole season of the sport and parse it down into a compelling piece of content that people will engage with. It’s challenging but it's highly rewarding.
Just be persistent, it's not easy, but it's worth it. It's worth the trouble.