Q&A with Vice President of Communications for the NFL Alex Riethmiller

Q&A with Vice President of Communications for the NFL Alex Riethmiller
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Alex Riethmiller has had a hand in nearly every communications-related aspect of the sport business industry leading up to his current role as Vice President of Communications for the NFL.

Riethmiller earned his B.A. is English from the University of Virginia before obtaining his M.B.A.S.M. from Florida Atlantic University.

Riethmiller started as a public relations intern for National Media Group, communications intern for the Jacksonville Jaguars and media relations intern for the Atlanta Hawks. He went on to serve as Corporate Communications Coordinator for SportsLine.com and Manager of Communications and Investor Relations for CBS SportsLine.com.

Promoted to Vice President of Communications and Media Relations at CBS Interactive, Riethmiller was responsible for overseeing CBSSports.com, MaxPreps.com and CBSSports.com College Network, including press releases and distribution. He recently joined the NFL in 2012, now managing all business surrounding NFL Network, NFL Red Zone, NFL.com and NFL Mobile.


MSBC: What kind of earlier media relations and PR experiences did you have?

Riethmiller: When in college, I did an internship with Turner in Atlanta, working for a couple of their properties. One was called SportSouth, which was a regional sports network, at the time that was owned by Turner. Eventually, it would be bought by Fox … and also did some work with TNT because it was just a wide-ranging internship. It wasn’t necessarily PR focused — it was answering phones and just doing really whatever they needed around the office. That kind of gave me my first experience in the sport business and then when I graduated from college, I moved to New York and started [working] for a small sports marketing agency. The help that they needed at the time was in their PR department. … It just so happened that the area that I was first exposed to in PR was something I ended up really liking and enjoying and so I just kind of stayed in that. After I was in New York for about a year, I moved to Jacksonville, Florida where I spent the season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, which was actually their first season in the NFL. It was great experience, but it was just a seasonal job — I was still looking for fulltime employment. After the season with the Jaguars, I went to Atlanta and spent a season with the Atlanta Hawks, working in their PR department. Again, it was another seasonal internship-type experience; it was not a fulltime position.

In conclusion of that season with the Hawks, I moved to the D.C. area where I was living with some friends, working to pay the bills and also helping out the Baltimore Ravens. Two or three times a week, I’d just drive up there and help them out with some stuff, but it wasn’t an internship and it wasn’t a fulltime job either. I was just kind of doing it to stay in the loop and keep my contacts fresh and I was just sending out my résumé. Some folks I had met in my previous experiences in college with the Jaguars introduced me to some people at CBS that ended up with a series of interviews with a company that CBS was doing business with at the time. This was in the late ‘90s when companies didn’t still have a digital strategy, let alone much of an Internet presence. But there was an Internet company in south Florida called SportsLines.com who was doing business with CBS and so I applied for it and got a job with them in their PR department. That started a run of about 13 years there. That company was eventually acquired by CBS and so I ended up doing a lot of work with CBS Sports and CBSSports.com.

MSBC: You were with CBS at a time when digital platforms were progressing quickly. What’s your perspective on that growth?

Riethmiller: I was with an Internet company that was eventually acquired by CBS, so I saw it from that perspective and saw how CBS went through their strategy of building up their Internet properties. They did it both in house and also by acquisition. They went on to acquire a company called CNET. … It obviously continues to change. Even now, obviously digital is very prevalent in the media business — it’s a huge part of it. But even now, the changes are happening probably even more quickly. Mobile is really the hotspot now with all the time spent shifting to mobile, so there’s a lot of attention on the mobile space. I think, those are going to be the places in the next year or two that are going to get the most attention and see the most changes.

MSBC: How has the market responded t o NFL Mobile so far?

Riethmiller: It’s doing great. The thing about the NFL is that it has such an advantage on a lot of other places whether we’re talking about products that we’re launching in the digital space or in the mobile space. [We] have such a large fan base of engaged fans that gives [us] a head start that a lot of other companies or businesses or even leagues don’t have — that really helps here. The mobile products that the NFL has get a lot of downloads. … We’ve got some great products that we’ll be using next week for the Draft and we have a great partner in Verizon that we do a lot of cool stuff with. Mobile is a big part of the strategy here at the NFL media.

MSBC: Where do you see that going five or 10 years from now?

Riethmiller: The change that’s happened in the last five years has been so dramatic that it’s hard to speculate on where you see it going in five years. … I think the stuff you’re going to see five years from now are things that haven’t even been started yet. It’s stuff that somebody hasn’t even thought of yet. Think about a company like Facebook, that’s really a pretty young company, and the dramatic changes that came about just because of Facebook or Twitter, who’s becoming incredibly popular now, probably even more popular than Facebook in a lot of ways in the media space. Think about those companies weren’t around four or five years ago or six or seven years ago. Speculating on five years out is impossible. It’s hard enough to speculate on a year out now.

MSBC: What kind of advantage does the NFL Network give the league?

Riethmiller: There’s a lot of content that leagues and conferences have that they can share with their fans. … Take somebody like the Big Ten Network or the NFL Network — there’s content that you can spread across the course of the year that your fan base will be interested in. I just think it gives it a platform to show stuff over the full course of the calendar, 24 hours a day, speaking to your fans directly in a way that other media companies that might want to do a deal with you might not be able to do. It’s not like ESPN has a channel strictly devoted to the Big Ten and … they don’t have a channel strictly devoted to the NFL either. When you talk about these conference or league specific channels, it juts gives the league or the conference the ability to speak to their fan directly every single day, 24 hours a day. That said, there’s obviously advantages doing — they’re mainly financial advantages — deals with other media companies for your content. I think, the NFL is a great mix of really trusted partners and then also having in-house media assets like NFL Network and NFL.com that allows them to speak to their fans directly on a daily basis.

MSBC: How is the NFL expanding the brand globally through media spaces?

Riethmiller: From an NFL media perspective, especially from the digital side, there’s a lot of attention being paid to spreading the NFL product globally through our media products. We have a product called Game Pass, which is only available to people outside of the United States, which allows people to watch NFL games live wherever they are. If you’re in the U.K., you can register for this Game Pass product and it allows you to watch NFL games live over the Internet or on the iPad and you can watch any game as it’s being played. It’ kind of like a Sunday Ticket type program, but for digital platforms that’s only available outside of the United States. We’re starting to see great adoption of those products around the world, particularly in the U.K., Mexico and Canada.


For media inquiries, please contact Brand Manager Liz Nagle
liz.nagle@umsbc.com
(248) 636-3661

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