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Mike is a long-time media tech & product leader, having worked on new digital businesses for companies like Spotify, Comcast, Viacom, and as a startup founder and CEO. The common thread through his career has been his drive to re-invent the TV user experience, which has not evolved nearly as fast as the other media verticals in response to the Internet.

Mike is currently Senior Vice President of Product Management at Viacom, responsible for new products, mobile apps, video, monetization, data, and content management platforms used globally by Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Paramount Pictures, etc.

At Spotify, Mike was responsible for new video businesses, including the exploratory development of a Spotify "skinny bundle" TV service. At Comcast, Mike was responsible for the X1 platform apps and consumer experiences. And going back a decade, Mike was the founder of two investor-backed startups in the digital media and e-learning space.

While Mike's career has been dedicated to technology and Product Management, in particular, he is a creative at heart. Mike majored in Music Composition at Middlebury College, and spend his first few years out of school producing music and composing for film.

You can follow Mike on Twitter: @mikeberkley

He will be live on April 4 starting at 930 AM PT for one and half hours during which he will answer as many questions as possible.

  • DH

    Dani Hart

    almost 2 years ago #

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for doing this AMA!

    In your product career, have you witnessed any trends in how product and marketing teams work together? Anything you can point out that contributes to success?

    Looking forward to reading what you have to say.

    Cheers,
    Dani

    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      (Continued...)
      Today, in most companies that develop software, product management is its own, distinct organization that is separate from marketing. But there are still numerous touch points between product and marketing throughout the product development cycle:
      - Market Research: high-level market trends that inform product strategy
      - Consumer Insights: product-specific surveying and conjoint analyses that inform feature-set, pricing, content mix, etc.
      - User Research: pre-launch qualitative testing of product prototypes, on small audiences
      - Product Analytics: post-launch quantitative analysis on how actual users are engaging with the product
      - Growth: optimizing conversion rates through each stage of the user-value funnel, often segmented as Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Revenue.

      When I was at Spotify from 2012 to 2014, Growth was part of the Product Management organization. But soon after I left, it split out and I believe it became part of the Marketing org. Regardless of where Growth sits, it clearly has one foot in the product world and one foot in the marketing world. This really makes it a unique function.

      5 Share
    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      Hi Dani -- thanks for having me here today. And thanks for the first question!

      The functions of Product Management and Marketing are tightly intertwined. If you go back 10 or 15 years, Product Management was generally considered a Marketing responsibility. It was the Marketing department that “told” the engineers what to build, at an arm’s length, based on their market research and what the customers were asking for. Marketing drove the product roadmap. While it’s evolved significantly since then, there are still a few notable companies, including Apple, that drive product development within Marketing. At Apple, the standard Product Owner function is carried out by a Product Marketing Manager.

  • AL

    Arsene Lavaux

    almost 2 years ago #

    Bonjour Mike- Thanks for doing this AMA.

    A few questions for you:

    1) Would you share with us the piece of music that you have created you are the most proud of?

    2) Where do you see the future of e-learning?

    3) In your opinion, what's the most effective way to grow a TV subscription business?

    Merci beaucoup!

    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      1) Ha! Well, it’s been a long time since I composed anything worthy of sharing, and difficult for me to name favorites (kind of like naming your favorite child). But here is a selection of some of my original music on Spotify. You can decide for yourself if any of it is good. :-)
      https://play.spotify.com/user/mikeberkley/playlist/0NZ6kBiWfESjgXyr1sIU66?play=true&utm_source=open.spotify.com&utm_medium=open

      • AL

        Arsene Lavaux

        almost 2 years ago #

        Hallucinogenic Aviation and Moonlit Warmth 👍🏻

        Interesting titles, too...
        And smooth electronic approach 🎶

    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      2) E-learning has always been full of great promise and opportunity, but there has never been a wildly successful e-learning company. It was certainly very difficult launching an e-learning startup. Most people strongly dislike online training courses as they tend to be too rigid for most learners – you must read text or watch videos in a certain sequence and then answer questions, etc. Even highly interactive e-learning courses tend to be linearly structured. Not everyone learns in a linear fashion.

      On the other hand, the Internet is awesome at self-directed learning; between Google and YouTube you can get an answer to just about any question, or learn how to complete just about any task. But it’s up to you to ask the questions, and sometimes you don’t know what the right question is, or even what you need to learn. So there are limits to self-directed learning.

      So I don’t know what the future of e-learning is, other than that it needs to address non-linear learning as well as low-intent learning (ie, non-self-directed). But I would bet that the mainstreaming of AI and "Ambient Computing" (ie, the future of Alexa-like services) will play a big role in how we educate ourselves moving forward. Ultimately, it will probably look something like The Matrix. :-)

      Will be exciting to watch.

      3 Share
      • AL

        Arsene Lavaux

        almost 2 years ago #

        Love the answer, I do concur with your take. Big fan of artificial curiosity which can disrupt linear learning patterns 👍🏻

    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      3) Netflix wrote the playbook here on growing a TV subscription business. It starts with offering must-watch content. Plain and simple. To date, it’s been impossible to launch a new video subscription service without well-established content. A new subscription service must have enough "anchor content" to attract the early adopters. Once they have that content foundation, they then need to continuously feed the audience with new content that they will love.

      Netflix did this by amassing a large library of must-watch content via licensing from the big media companies. That base of content provided them a solid foundation which gave them enough time to develop their own original content. They were *extremely* lucky with their early hits, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Two immediate hits rarely happens. As they've increased their originals output, they've become decreasingly dependent on the large media companies for a core catalog. Netflix will soon be able to solidly stand on its own.

      Brilliant vision, strategy, and execution. Reed Hastings is my hero. :-)

      3 Share
    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      Bonjour Arsene, thanks for your questions. Let me try to answer each below...

  • RS

    Rahul Singh

    almost 2 years ago #

    Hi Mike - Thanks for doing this AMA.

    I'm a 22 year old,(young) marketer.

    My questions are:

    1. What advice would you give to young marketers?

    2. What's your favourite book, that's changed the way, you used to think.

    Once again, thank you!

    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      1) My advice to young marketers is for you to learn as much as you can about what’s happening in the realm of augmented reality and machine / deep learning. I think we are on the cusp of another landmark technology transformation, perhaps even bigger than the shift to mobile was several years ago. AR + AI + (what I call) "Ambient Computing" will transform the way all live and they way we interact with technology. And it’s really only a 12 to 18 months away from being tangible and mainstream. We’re starting to see the tip of the iceberg with Amazon Alexa -- even though Alexa is still in such a nascent state. When Apple launches AR glasses next year (?), the speed of the mainstream acceptance will skyrocket.

      As marketing and product people, we need to catch up to this technology, which is currently outpacing us, and define the use cases that will fulfill its potential. So much promise, but still limited utility. That's on us to solve.

      3 Share
      • RS

        Rahul Singh

        almost 2 years ago #

        This is amazing after all, marketers are/have to be the smartest people.
        Thanks again.

    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      2) I’m not sure about all-time favorite book, that’s too hard. But one that I read in the last few years which is related to this AMA topic and really sticks out is Zero to One by Peter Thiel. While I don’t agree with Thiel’s politics, I have big respect for his innovative thinking. In Zero to One, he makes a strong, unapologetic case for the value of original thinking: creating something out of nothing, ie, from zero to one. The book is truly the entrepreneur’s handbook. It immerses you in the concept of “First Principle” thinking: the act of coming into every problem with openness and a lack of preconceived notions on how to fix it… breaking down problems to their atomic core, and then building new, bottom-up solutions. The book pushes you to look at everything from a unique perspective to find the approaches that others miss.

      Thiel also has some interesting thoughts on competition (hint: he doesn’t like it).

    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      Hi Rahul, this is fun. Thanks for participating! Let me answer your two questions separately...

  • JD

    James Dunn

    almost 2 years ago #

    Hi Mike

    Your career path has clearly been impressive.
    What would you say are the top lessons you've learned from your career? What advice would you give your younger self just starting out knowing what you know now?

    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      Hi James, thanks for your kind words. And thanks for your questions.

      So many young professionals focus on their career in isolation from everyone and everything else around them. That is very natural, but also a little short-sighted. A career is not something you build on your own; you do not hire yourself nor do you give yourself promotions (well, most of us don't). Career advancement requires other people recognizing the value that you bring to them and to the organization overall. The fastest way to accelerate your career is to lift up those around you: your manager, executives at your company, your co-workers, and as you move up in an organization: your staff members. Lifting up others is often a natural outcome of doing an exceptional job in your day-to-day role, but it also should happen outside of your job description.

      I actually wrote a blog post on this recently (https://medium.com/@mikeberkley/the-best-career-advice-c1f1eb26ea33). To paraphrase: it doesn’t matter what your job is, or whether you’re a manager or an individual contributor… The more you help others around you, either directly or as an outcome of your work, the more you will be valued by those above, below, and around you. And the more you are valued by others in your company and in your industry, the more they will need you. And being needed is what fuels your career growth.

      I hope that helps.

  • JP

    John Phamvan

    almost 2 years ago #

    Hey Mike - great to have you on
    You mentioned in your bio that TV user experience has not evolved nearly as fast as the other media verticals - and that's clearly true.
    What user experience would you like to aim for? What's (v1 of) the ideal?

    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      Hi John, great to be here. Thanks for your question. Don't get me started on this topic! :-)

      The biggest innovation in the TV experience has been the shift from linear TV viewing (ie, watching on a pre-defined scheduled) to on-demand viewing (ie, watching on your personal schedule). That is a huge innovation, don't get me wrong, but it hasn't yet resulted in new ways of discovering what to watch.

      Almost all the on-demand video user interfaces mimic the legacy experience of the Blockbuster rental store. Remember spending an hour at the rental store, browsing aisles after aisles of DVD boxes, trying to find the perfect movie for the evening? We’re still doing it, we’re just at home now. With the exception of search (for when you already know what you want), our VOD user interfaces haven’t changed from the old-school video rentals stores we had in the 80’s. We still browse rows and rows of box art, sometimes giving up before making a decision. We continue to be forced to judge the book by its cover.

      Despite the enormous conveniences of on-demand search and playback, I believe SVOD services like Netflix and Amazon neglected an important aspect of the linear TV experience: the serendipity of discovery. Serendipity is like magic: it happens to you, not by you. No effort is required. Life bombards us with a million decisions throughout the day, our entertainment should be an escape from all that work. Remember how we used to turn on the tube simply to see what’s on and flip through TV channels? That impulse to see what’s on is driven by the same impulse that has us pulling out our phones to check Facebook and Instagram throughout the day. It’s the unpredictability of a “variable reward” that creates these urges. We don’t know what we’ll get, but it might be awesome! Or it might be trash. And we keep on rolling the dice. Ironically, it’s the lack of user control in linear TV that gamified TV viewing before “gamified” was even a word.

      So I think the big opportunity for the entertainment industry is to figure out how to incorporate the excitement of serendipity into new digital video services, like we get from surfing our Facebook feeds, and previously from linear TV. Real product innovation is required; it’s not enough to simply put traditional linear TV channels in digital products. Digital users demand much more. Like Facebook, the app must offer up content that is personally relevant to each user, and the user must feel in control of the experience. This is where the traditional linear TV channel comes up short: no personalization and very little user control. We need a new video discovery paradigm that incorporates the variable rewards and immersiveness of linear TV, while still being highly personalized and controllable by the user.

      For more of my thoughts on this, see: https://medium.com/@mikeberkley/video-discovery-still-sucks-b3a37039c40a

  • JP

    Jason Palmer

    almost 2 years ago #

    What is more important - product quality or time to market?

    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      Hey Jason, great to see a familiar face! Thanks for jumping in!

      Shhhh, don’t tell anyone I said this, but there are occasions when products must ship by a certain date. Usually it's in coordination with a big event that has an immovable date, like Christmas. This is much more common with hardware products (or software attached to hardware) than it is with pure-play software. In those cases, it’s imperative to keep the MVP (minimum viable product) scope constrained enough such that you don’t have to sacrifice quality in order to ship on time.

      But other than those circumstances when products are inexorably tied to dates, it’s always better to ship your product AFTER it’s met an acceptable level of quality, regardless of date. Post-launch optimization should ideally be focused on growth, not on quality.

  • PR

    Pablo Retamal

    almost 2 years ago #

    Hola Mike!

    Do you think VR will combine with TV in order to update this experience? If not what is your forecast for the future of TV?

    Have a good one!

    Pablo

    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      Hey Pablo, thanks for your question! This is the last question I have time for, so I will get straight to the point...

      I actually think VR is the future of *gaming*, while MR (the "mixed reality" version of augmented reality) is the future of TV. Actually, MR is more likely one of several futures for TV, as well as movies. Imagine holographic characters acting out a story in the middle of NYC, in front of an audience of thousands on the streets, experiencing the unfolding drama together at the same time, right in front of them. Pretty intriguing to imagine...

  • JM

    Joe Montana

    almost 2 years ago #

    Hi Mike,
    Thank you so much for this. I have been selling content through SMS as a payment system for the last 15 years, so "content" has been my life and how/why people choose one content vs the other.
    Couple questions:
    1) TV, seams to me, drifting away because it doesn´t have instant gratification (i want the content I want but NOW). Do you think TV should/would follow Netflix´s path?
    2) How do you deal with uncertainty? How to tell what to do when you don´t know what is going to work and what is going to succeed?

    Best,
    JLP

    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      Hey, Joe Montana (if you're the actual Joe Montana of 49ers fame, you signed my t-shirt about 30 years ago! Thanks for that!)

      Sorry for my delayed response. Here are a few quick answers:

      1) Yes, it's true that the linear TV audience is shrinking, especially among younger demographics, because it's not as convenient nor immediate than all the other on-demand entertainment options that now exist (YouTube, Netflix, Minecraft, SnapChat, Facebook, etc). People have become conditioned to get what they want, when they want, on any device. They are also becoming more savvy about how to avoid advertising. All of these combine to create strong headwinds for traditional linear TV. Yet, linear TV is still a cash-cow for large media companies, both in terms of advertising and in terms of affiliate subscription revenue. This is the huge challenge that media companies need to navigate now and over the next few years. But yes, from a user perspective, Netflix provides a great path for the industry to follow.

      2) Regarding uncertainty and how to deal with it... I'd say very few things in life are certain. This is especially true with new products (and new TV shows, for that matter). To reduce risk, we test our hypotheses as early and as often as possible. This means testing assumptions upfront with consumer surveys; then building prototypes of the product and getting people off the street to play with them and provide feedback; then iterating on the concept incorporating the feedback; and finally launching the actual product to a small set of consumers to collect data and tweak the product as needed before launching it to the whole wide world. All of this is possible with software products, but is much harder with hardware products and content, like TV shows. That is why investments in content companies are much riskier than investments in software companies.

      I hope that helps.

  • EB

    Eleanor Bennett

    almost 2 years ago #

    What is your favorite single piece of software to inform surveying/customer research before developing new products?

    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      Hi Eleanor, thanks for your questions and sorry for the delayed response. I'm not sure I have a favorite piece of software for consumer research. My teams do a lot of prototyping before we actually start building the real product, and we recruit people off the street (via craigslist.com) to do prototype testing. But I don't think we rely on any specific software to enable this process.

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    almost 2 years ago #

    Hey Mike - so cool to have you on!

    I loved your "“Winner Takes All” Monopolies in Media" post (for those that haven't read it: https://medium.com/@mikeberkley/winner-takes-all-monopolies-and-media-1c908fe57f74)

    I was fascinated by your statement that the opportunity is still there for someone to figure out how to successfully apply Network Effects to news consumption.

    I wanted to explore this some more.
    If - as you noted in the same post - that FB themselves haven't figured out how to do this (yet) how do you see an independent "social network just for news" by a brand new player doing this (vs the news piece being a part of a network where users also do other stuff)?
    Also, hasn't Twitter to an extent become a news/information network (i never saw it as a social network tbh) and what do you think of their chances of becoming what you envision?

    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      Hey Anuj, thanks so much for inviting me here today! It's been a blast.

      Yeah, I hate to say it, but unless someone can figure out how to effectively incorporate network effects into News discovery and consumption, I believe it will likely remain a commoditized feature of platforms (FB, Google, Apple), rather than a viable stand-alone service. The opportunity is certainly there for a new player to figure this out and become THE mainstream destination for news, but it won’t happen without some network effects magic.

      Twitter had a network effect going early on, but it seems to have lost it as it crossed the chasm into the mainstream. Now, the vast majority of users are passive readers and don’t contribute any value back to the network. And their growth has stalled as a result. Maybe that is the fate of News overall. I suppose Reddit (and Digg before) has been flirting with network effects around News, but they haven’t entered the mainstream and probably never will.

      If I had the recipe, I would be building it right now (and not answering questions here, so good news that I don't have the recipe!) .

      Music may ultimately share the same fate as News, but I am rooting hard for Spotify to remain independent! They are in the process of pulling this off without network effects. Instead, they are leaning on their leadership position in AI-driven music discovery, which does create high switching costs for their more engaged users.

  • JF

    Javier Feldman

    almost 2 years ago #

    Hi Mike!

    Also taking off from your article Anuj mentioned - Can Uber truly said to have a global monopoly on the ridesharing market given what happened with Didi in China and Ola being more popular in India? These are two of the world's biggest markets and they're not there/not the leader in either of them.

    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      Thanks, Javier, for your question. Sorry for the delayed response.

      Yeah, I've received a bit of feedback from that article, especially regarding Uber. While they are the clear leader, it's true that it's too early to claim that Uber has a lock on the market, especially the global market. I need to go back and edit that post! :-)

  • DO

    Danielle Olivas

    almost 2 years ago #

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for spending time with us today.

    I loved your post on "Make ‘Video Discovery’ Great Again".

    I can personally say that when I'm looking for a movie to watch, whether it's XOD or Netflix, I find myself spending more time just looking through all the options and before I know it, its been 15 mins. That's 15 mins I could've spent watching something!

    We really need a solution that balances the dopamine hit of discovery with actual decision making - quickly - like in a minute or two so you can get on with watching. What efforts do you have (from Viacom) or elsewhere that are moving in this direction?

    I look forward to your reply!

    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      Thanks Danielle for your keen observations and great question. I apologize for the delayed response. Unfortunately I can't talk about what's in the works at Viacom. But I can point to one example which I think is really well executed from a product perspective, though the content is short-form rather than long-form entertainment: check out the Hyper app on your iPhone or Apple TV: https://www.watchhyper.com.

  • SF

    Sarah Friedman

    almost 2 years ago #

    When you notice a lack (or drop) in audience engagement/adoption of new products or functionality, how do you pivot your strategy and what tactics do you deploy?

    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      Hi Sarah, thanks for your question. I'm running low on time, so I will keep this brief, though it deserves a much deeper response.

      The most important thing to do with any product is establish KPI's upfront. These set your north star and determine whether you are on-path to achieving the product's user and business goals. With KPI's and a flexible A/B testing system, you should be able to perform tests that will guide you closer and closer to achieving your engagement goals. Without KPI's, you're in the dark and no tactics will be dependable.

      You should only pivot your strategy after you've exhausted all the optimization opportunities via A/B testing. At that point you probably need to step back and re-think the product at a higher level.

  • AK

    AbdulKarriem Khan

    almost 2 years ago #

    Why do you think there is no product placement ad network for tv, movie or web?

    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      Hi AbdulKarriem, thanks for your question.

      Product placement requires close collaboration with the content producers, which doesn't easily scale across multiple publishers. That is why we see mostly native product placement agencies housed directly inside the content publishers, and no networks. Here's a fantastic in-house agency to look at: http://www.velocityviacom.com.

  • JT

    Judy Tran

    almost 2 years ago #

    How do you know when to add a new feature and know the different between what customer think they need and what customer really need?

    Thank you!!

  • MB

    Mike Berkley

    almost 2 years ago #

    Thanks everyone so much for participating. There are a few more questions I did not get to answer. I will try to respond to them in the coming days. Thanks, again!

  • MD

    Mark Davies

    almost 2 years ago #

    Hi Mike
    How do larger companies with multi platforms like virgin media, sky, or HBO innovate at such large scale and stay current to the ever evolving user?

    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      Hey Mark, thanks for your question! This is a huge topic worthy of a book. It is what we talk about almost every day at work, and there is no simple answer. There are many different forces at play within these large media / distribution companies, and often they are conflicting. What I can say is that regardless of any specific strategy to address these challenges, what is badly needed are GREAT product managers to help navigate these large companies. I am working on a longer blog post on this topic, so stay tuned... :-)

  • DM

    dayna moon

    almost 2 years ago #

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks again for donating your time!

    When evaluating new and potentially market disruptive products for a potential partnership or integration - what drives the conversations and ultimately the decision on whether to move forward?

    Thank you!
    Dayna

    • MB

      Mike Berkley

      almost 2 years ago #

      Hi Dayna and thanks for your question. Apologies for the delayed response.

      For media companies, I think evaluating "disruptive" distribution partners really comes down to 5 considersations:

      - Reach
      - Audience relevancy
      - Brand attribution
      - Monetization potential
      - Data access

      And the last consideration, Data Access, is climbing fast in terms of relative importance.

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