Six questions for... Maryann Turcke

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In June, Maryann Turcke, MBA’97, BSc(Eng)’88, was named chair of the Smith School of Business Advisory Board. She took over as chair from Benita Warmbold, BCom’80, who held the position for five years. Turcke started her career as an engineer, working in highway and bridge construction; then, after earning her MBA, spent 12 years with Bell, including as president of Bell Media. In 2017, she joined the NFL and, last year, was named the league’s chief operating officer. Smith Magazine recently spoke with Turcke about her job in football.

Why did you decide to join the NFL?

The size of the platform and the opportunity to work Stateside really attracted me. I worked with the NFL when I was with Bell Media, on buying rights. Being on the other side of content production is something that appealed to me. And I’ve always been a fan of the game.

How is technology changing the way leagues connect with audiences?

It’s all about how that next generation of fans wants to consume your product. They have infinite choices in entertainment options. We have to make sure that we’re serving them what they want, when they want it and, most importantly, where they want it. It’s marketing to the one. We call it mass intimacy.

Is TV still the main channel for the NFL?

In terms of watching, for sure. Well over 95 per cent of our ratings are on traditional television. There’s more streaming now, but overall, watching the game is still dominated by that big screen in a house, with a traditional cable package.

Every fan has a favourite, so I’m just wondering yours: Running or passing game?

Passing.

And your idea of the perfect tailgate dish?

I’d have to say pulled pork.

The NFL remains the most popular sports league in America. Why do you think that is?

There are a lot of theories. My own personal view is that we sell hope. We work really hard at competitive balance in the league so that on any given Sunday a team can pull out a win. One way that’s done is that we share revenue in this league. Another reason is scarcity. Every single game matters. Each team plays 16 games during a 17-week period, and these guys play flat-out hard in every game all the time – because every single game can make the difference between seeing the post-season or not.