Alan Dark’s 2015 state of the nation

Rogers' new SVP of media sales on hockey, digital fraud, and the type of people he wants for his team this year.

Alan Dark has only been head of sales at Rogers Media for a couple months, but is making quick work of announcing his vision for the company as it moves from a media business to what he calls a marketing services company.

Sitting down with the newly appointed SVP of media sales late last month, MiC learned about Dark’s plans for his team as it heads into 2015, including the plan to transition Rogers Publishing customers from print magazines to digital through its websites and the Next Issue Canada platform in about the next five years.

Contract deals with Next Isssue in the US prohibit full numbers releases, but earlier in 2014 Steve Maich, SVP of publishing at Rogers Communications and head of Next Issue Canada, said he expected upwards of 20% of overall circulation for Rogers Media titles to be coming through the service by the end of 2014. That is up from 2 to 3% of circulation coming from digital going into 2014.

Dark took over the head sales post at the company from Jack Tomik during a time of significant changes in both the industry and the company. As the TV business awaits the results of the CRTC’s Let’s Talk TV hearing, streaming services are shifting consumer viewing habits online and Rogers’ big bet on national NHL rights is in its first crucial year. Trying to encompass all of that is Rogers’ “3.0″ business model, currently being rolled out by the company’s new CEO Guy Laurence.

The NHL season has launched to mixed results, Dark says ratings for the early Saturday night game and Scotiabank Wednesday Night Hockey are up over the same period last year, but adds the late Saturday night game and Sunday’s new Hometown Hockey programming have been softer than expected to date. He notes these results come after a half-season of games, and that much of the numbers come down to league’s game schedule.

Dark says that Rogers GameCentre Live has seen a 400% lift in consumption year-over-year versus what the NHL app had at this point last season. Rogers GameCentre Live was free to Rogers customers until January, and is now $129 for a half-season or $199 for a full-season. He attributes much of that success to Rogers driving customers to the app and promoting the platform during hockey broadcasts.

Last year’s NHL GameCentre Live app offering had approximately 50% fewer games, with Rogers allowing those with a regional Sportsnet subscription to access games that are blacked out or otherwise unavailable in their region, including out-of-market games, plus the Stanley Cup playoff games.

When it comes to digital, Dark says one of the biggest trends for 2015 will be preventing fraud in Canada. He says Rogers wants to work with IAB Canada and be a leader in making changes in the space.

“If we don’t clean those things up in the next year or two we are building on a foundation that is unstable,” he says. “Until we fix that problem for marketers we will continue to stub our toes.”

And who is Dark looking to hire this year? He says that an increase of multi-platform and branded content sales through Rogers’ One Call team structure has resulted in more deals being done with marketers in addition to the more traditional agency partners. That shift has Dark looking to add sales members with CPG backgrounds to his team.

Looking big picture, Dark says the continual move away from transactional sales and towards multi-platform deals is part of Rogers Media’s plan to become a marketing services company. That transformation, as well as what he says will be over 10 new product launches, will continue in 2015.

From checking-in with clients to trying to fit in more fishing, see the resolutions Dark has planned for 2015.

Videography by Jennifer Horn