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Mikhail Kazi ‘21

Internship Spotlight: Mikhail Kazi ’21, Disney Streaming Services

What are you doing this summer? We asked rising second-year MBA students to check in from their summer internships, where they are applying the lessons of their first year at Yale SOM.

Mikhail Kazi ’21
Internship: Disney Streaming Services, New York City

Mikhail Kazi ‘21Hometown: Fitchburg, Wisconsin
Favorite Yale SOM Class: State and Society with Professors Mushfiq Mobarak and Ian Shapiro
Clubs and affiliations: Co-leader of Media & Entertainment, General Management and Data Analytics clubs; teaching assistant for State & Society and Sourcing & Managing Funds
Favorite New Haven eatery: Elm City Social
Favorite Professor: Jidong Zhou
Favorite Yale SOM community event: Fall break 2019 Mexico City class trip

This summer I interned at Disney Streaming Services on the ESPN+ Marketing Strategy & Planning team. Disney Streaming Services is part of Disney’s direct-to-consumer arm and comprises Disney+ and ESPN+. My team acts as internal marketing consultants for ESPN+, driving the planning and alignment, prioritization, budgeting, performance measurement, and long-term strategy of all ESPN+ marketing initiatives. ESPN+ functions much like a startup; the organization is relatively small, teams are often cross-functional, and everyone has an entrepreneurial, growth-driven mindset. Even as an intern, I felt like my contributions were high-impact and essential to the business.

I worked on two summer projects over the eight-week internship:

  • Sports Betting: I worked with the team at ESPN+ to examine how to build further reach and engagement with the sports betting audience. I first conducted research on the sports betting sector, including sizing the market and digging up data on bettor demographics, user experience, competitors, and the regulatory environment. Based on my research, I recommended a path forward for potential opportunities for ESPN+ composed of phases to reach an ideal future state. The tools I learned in Innovator were essential to this project; learning how to build prototypes helped me design relatively low-cost ways to gauge and test the feasibility, reception, and demand of my long-term recommendation.
  • ESPN+ Content Strategy: I partnered with another MBA intern to provide a recommendation on how ESPN+ could look at programming in the years ahead. Based on industry trends and consumer preferences, we constructed a comprehensive strategy for each ESPN+ content pillar. For example, we recommended that originals can be used to increase engagement and reduce subscriber churn. ESPN+, being direct-to-consumer, can develop unique immersive shows and experiences catered to specific audiences. The industry analysis tools I learned in Competitor were essential to analyzing and comparing ESPN+ to other sports streaming services. Building off our proposed strategy, we analyzed and recommended different programming opportunities ESPN+ can take on today based on market potential and the current landscape of broadcast rights.

At the end of my internship, I got to present both summer projects to the GM of ESPN+ and other Disney executives. It was a great experience to be able to pitch new ideas to the “owner” of the business. The presentations were about 45 minutes each, so there was plenty of time for the executives to bend and stretch our thinking and recommendations. It felt less like an intern project and more like a true business pitch—definitely the highlight of the summer.

In terms of networking, the folks at Disney are great at making themselves available for virtual coffee chats, so I have had plenty of opportunities to meet people at all levels across the company. HR also scheduled intern lunch-and-learns with top executives at Hulu and ESPN, among many others. The other seven MBA interns around Disney and I formed a Slack group within the first week, which acted as a great support system and springboard to connect with managers in other business areas.

COVID-19 impacted our business in unique ways. On one hand, live sports are constantly in flux, which heavily influence our day-to-day work and programming strategy. Can the “bubble” model be applied to other sports? How can we best capitalize on sports with active live events, such as UFC and PGA? These are a few of the many questions we asked ourselves throughout the summer. On the other hand, streaming has surged during the pandemic, so we frequently strategized how to best acquire and engage subscribers during this unique period of media and entertainment.

Overall, it was a great experience that exceeded my expectations. I had a great mentor on my team (also an MBA) who ensured that I was always trending in the right direction. My team taught me a great deal about marketing, including digital marketing, marketing strategy, and performance-based marketing, in addition to business development and competitive strategy. Coming into SOM, I wanted to transition into media and entertainment, specifically Disney, so I am grateful that the team was able to accommodate me during this uncertain time. I recently received notice that my internship will extend through the fall—I am very excited to continue working on the team!