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Chris Benyarko, NBA senior vice-president of direct to consumer

Bob Williams speaks to Chris Benyarko, the NBA's senior vice-president of direct to consumer, about the league's manifold micro-payments initiatives.

What is the strategy behind the introduction of micro-payments – is it feeding into new demands of consumers, is it to make money, is it fan engagement, or all the above?

“The goal is just flexibility for fans to watch live NBA games. That is priority one, two, three and four.”

How did you know there was a demand for this before you introduced it?

“We looked at behaviour. A lot of times when people look at games or events it’s based on storylines so as people are learning about things that are happening in games – whether it’s someone going for a triple-double or someone is going to break some kind of streak – they might want to watch that game. So providing flexibility for them to get into that game at any point was what the goal was.”

How has it gone so far, and how have you measured this?

“It’s working really well across multiple platforms. We look at a couple of metrics: how many of the people who are buying micro-transactions are buying something from us for the first time; folks that are buying multiple games or multiple quarters; and obviously are people upselling into larger subscriptions such as Team Pass or League Pass.”

Do you have any numbers to explain this?

“Not at this time. We are still learning a lot.”

Which price points or specific time frames of games have worked better than others? why?

“It all varies – it’s the storylines that drive micro-transactions. It’s not any one set time, team or price-point, it’s more what’s going on with storylines in the games, that is what typically drives orders.”

Do customers fill in any information about themselves?

“They do after they pay, sometimes they do later. The demographics in terms of age are really all over the place. It cuts through all of the groups. We do think that over time the younger, more tech-savvy fans will probably use this offering more than other groups but right now it’s pretty widespread across all of them.”

Do you have many repeat customers?

“We do have a set of users who buy multiple games in a night or spreading it out over a number of weeks. There is a lot of repeat purchase that happens.”

Have micro-payments affected the revenues of full individual game purchases at all?

“It hasn’t reduced the number of people buying, we’re still seeing very positive growth. In fact, we actually see it helping with people buying subscriptions. It allows fans to watch games and feel the overall product and experience and we see the upsell component [is] a big part of it. If we know that someone buys three games from one certain team, you know they have interest in that team so maybe you offer them something around a Team Pass. So it is overall helping the business in a positive way, it is not any cannibalization.”

Do you see this as a big revenue driver?

“We don’t see the micro-transactions as purely as revenue, we’re just having more people watching games and being engaged. If you imagine we are doing positive growth in League and Team passes and then seeing new people using micro-transactions to watch games, in the overall ecosystem of people engaged it’s that much larger.”

Who sells micropayments?

“If someone is a League Pass distributor or partner, they have the option to use any of the League Pass packages that we have.”

Have other leagues shown interest in this – with perhaps the intention of implementing it themselves?

“Across the entire media landscape, everyone is looking at different options and models in terms of how to make their content available. I think any media company will probably take a look at micro-transactions in terms of how they can leverage them.”

What is the future of micro-transactions?

“We typically wait as we get through the season to see the different consumption habits and how orders are going and especially how many new people are buying that have never purchased previously and then we use all that data to determine how we might augment the offerings or adjust price or things like that. It’s too early to pinpoint what our plans might be going forward.”

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