Real World DataMarket: Interview with Greg Kirkorsky, Senior Vice President for the Americas at STATS

As part of the Real World DataMarket series, we talked to Greg Kirkorsky, Senior Vice President for the Americas at STATS, about using DataMarket (a part of Windows Azure Marketplace) to support his company’s entry into the global consumer market. Here’s what he had to say:

MSDN: Let’s start by talking about STATS.

Kirkorsky: Sure. STATS provides real-time sports data, historical information, and turnkey fantasy operations to sports organizations and media companies of all types. If you’re holding a baseball card, looking up sports data on a website, or watching the electronic crawl across the bottom of your TV screen during a sports report, you’re probably looking at information that originated with STATS.

MSDN: What motivated you to look at DataMarket?

Kirkorsky: STATS is the leading sports data provider in its business-to-business markets, but we lacked a presence in the global consumer market. We saw this as an area of vast potential growth. But we also saw it as a high-risk market with massive costs of entry. We have global data centers, but we anticipated needing to build them out considerably to support anticipated growth. We’d then have a major marketing expense to bring consumers to our data. It would also be costly to build and maintain a pricing and invoicing infrastructure. We wanted to enter the consumer market—but we wanted to mitigate the risks while reducing the costs.

MSDN: Tell us about working with Microsoft to maximize your participation in DataMarket.

Kirkorsky: We worked with Microsoft to define the sports data sets that we intended to expose and the data structures for supporting that information. We chose data sets on game-by-game and year-to-date statistics, as well as live scores, for baseball and football. Microsoft provided guidance on using the pricing and invoicing infrastructure that is built into DataMarket.

MSDN: How are you hosting your DataMarket data?

Kirkorsky: Although we have our own data centers, we chose to host the databases for DataMarket in Microsoft SQL Azure. It gave us complete flexibility to make the best technical decisions regarding our data. It also provided the greatest ease of implementation for DataMarket. We know that with SQL Azure, we’re getting guaranteed scalability, reliability, and performance—factors that are essential for a smooth entry into a new market.

MSDN: How do you expect consumers to use your data on DataMarket?

Kirkorsky: Anyone with a spreadsheet can link up with our data—but that’s just the beginning. Consumers can use STATS data with any Microsoft graphing, charting, or visualization tools they already have. They can use any new data tools that Microsoft makes available for DataMarket customers. We’re building our own visualization products and we could make those available to customers through DataMarket. There is also the potential for mash-ups with other content providers on DataMarket, and for partnerships with independent software developers who want to build STATS data into their applications.

MSDN: Sum up the benefits from your participation in DataMarket—both actual and projected.

Kirkorsky: We’ve extended our reach to vast numbers of new customers around the world and gained a way to enter a new market while minimizing our investment. We estimate we’ve reduced our investment cost by U.S.$1 million over what we would have spent to build our own consumer infrastructure. Also, we’ve avoided the need to create and manage our own billing infrastructure and fulfillment service.

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