Interview: Andreas Heyden, CEO at DFL Digital Sports GmbH

Andreas Heyden has been CEO of a company that may not immediately stand out to you. Called DFL Digital Sport GmbH, it’s better known as the digital arm of the German Football League, the Bundesliga.

Now 2 years into his first role in sport, he’s been an integral part of the drive to develop an engaged community of fans of the league, and obviously its 36 teams who are all stakeholders in the business.  They’ve succeeded in bringing more production in-house as they look to control their destiny in an ever changing media landscape.

He’s passionate about taking down the silo’s we see in production, where you have separate TV, digital, partner and social teams. Stating that, “The more you break the structure up the more you can re-use and re-utilise content to create interesting, compelling and highly engaging content either for B2B or for B2C”.

Before he ended up in football, Andreas built up almost 20 years of experience with internet businesses. Starting out with I-D Media and Microsoft before spending 6 years at German broadcaster RTL. Rising up to become a leader of people at a young age.

“I realised quite early that only with great teams are you able to succeed. And I like the managerial challenge of creating high performance teams, hiring people that are smarter than me and grow with them together and learn from them.”

And he also learnt fast that;

  1. You shouldn’t bet against the internet
  2. You have to develop the nerd within you
  3. You have to love data

Data is obviously one of Andreas’ great loves and he speaks at length about its importance. So far in that DFL Digital Sport has developed their own index to help them identify what works and what doesn’t. Through working out what makes something ‘great’ they developed the Article Performance Score (APS) – bringing different metrics together including reach, scroll depth and social sharing.

Only articles that perform well on this index are pushed by them and they are constantly updating and refining how they work to ensure that the right content is reaching the right people.

The time though that shaped him as a leader more than anything was his 4 year spell as COO and CEO of social media network, sevenload GmbH. His timing could not have been more challenging, joining in 2007 and almost immediately being faced with the global financial crisis of 2008.

“When you work in a startup and it survives for 4 years it’s a long period where you endure everything from the hype cycle. From ‘You’re great’ to ‘Ok guys I have very bad news for you we need to restructure’.”

Back with the Bundesliga, this year sees them start a new relationship with Perform’s DAZN. A new OTT offering that is specialising within sport and they are keen in Germany to keep up with an evolving market and also habits of viewers of sport since the introduction of catchup TV and Netflix/Amazon.

It’s early days but it’s something that will develop quickly across football. Recently we’ve heard about the Premier League looking to start live streaming (DAZN maybe?) and Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat challenging for US internet rights for next year’s World Cup coverage. It’s an area that’s only going to be more interesting and a much bigger part of the business.

Towards the end of the interview Andreas revealed how they keep on top of the tech trends and solutions being developed globally. “We’re Germans, so we have quite a structured approach to the future! Each year around Christmas time we meet to look at how the world will look, at the moment, in 2025.”

It’s an opportunity for them to study Garnter Hype Cycles, hear expert interviews and study 3rd party data to enable them to update this long term view. It’s a fabulous approach that means they keep ahead of the game and leads into another process in which they are able to test out new technologies, share with partners and battle for budgets.

This is only a small amount of what was spoken about in the interview. It’s a fascinating insight and well worth your time to listen to. If you enjoy this podcast then do sign up on iTunes or Audioboom (or your favourite app) and give us feedback by leaving a rating/review or drop me a note on @danielmclaren or daniel@digitalsport.co

About author

Daniel McLaren
Daniel McLaren 693 posts

Dan McLaren launched Digital Sport (formerly UK Sports Network) back in January 2010 and has worked in the digisport industry with adidas, We Are Social, Copa90 and Pulse amongst others. He's now a freelance social media guy living in the East Midlands and podcast host with the Digital Sport podcast on Audioboom, iTunes and Stitcher Radio.

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