FoxSports.com is making a serious run at ESPN.com's online dominance by turning its web portal into a virtual cable channel, with hourly streaming of a live daily sports news report beginning Monday.
Called Fox Sports Flash, the show will originate in Los Angeles and be anchored by sportswriter/sportscaster Barry LeBrock, anchors of the network’s cable highlights show and host of MLB Strikezone on DirecTV; and Jill Arrington (photo, left), veteran of the Tennis Channel and ESPN and CBS pro football broadcast – not to mention Playboy’s “sexiest sportscaster” in 2001.
Fox is hoping its live sports report — along with its five-days-a-week, one-hour lunchtime online programming block “Lunch with Benefits” — will help its effort to sell ads during the broadcast television upfront, especially since the programming will be so closely integrated with its broadcast programming.
“Video is premium inventory online, and our programming goes beyond the typical online videos that just include game highlights,” said Jeff Husvar, EVP and general manager of Fox Sports Interactive Media. “It’s original video, some live and some taped, that is created specifically for a targeted audience in the 1 p.m.-2 p.m. window.”
The Fox Sports digital sales team, working in conjunction with the Fox Sports broadcast salespeople, will offer a broad range of ad packages, including in-show sponsorships, product integrations, and traditional 30-second commercials.
And advertisers will be able to buy ads in a single show, a group of shows, or a combination of Fox Sports television programming and the digital shows. The “LWB: shows stream between 15-20 minutes within that 1-2 p.m. window, although the length of shows run over that.
“’Lunch with Benefits’ started out as an experiment last fall and now it’s become a legitimate Fox franchise,” Husvar said.
Shows the Fox sales teams will be selling for fall include: “After Party” with Jay Glazer, who interviews Sunday National Football League game stars via Skype the following day; “Coach Speak” with former Baltimore Ravens head coach Brian Billick, who interviews NFL head coaches on Tuesday about the Sunday games; “College Experiment,” a Wednesday show about college sports; “Cubed,” a sports Emmy Award nominated interview and discussion show on Thursdays; and “Inside Call” on Fridays, featuring the Fox NFL Sunday pre-game and post-game show cast.
Plans for “Inside Call” are to bring aboard more of the Fox TV NFL game commentators like Troy Aikman and Daryl Johnson.
What will the Fox sales pitch to advertisers in the upfront be?
According to data provided by the company, over 50 percent of FoxSports.com users visit the site during that 1 p.m.-2 p.m. local time window, Monday through Friday; 60 per cent of all “LWB” streams occur during that time (users can also access the programming after it is streamed via a VOD component), and 45 percent of users watch video on FoxSports.com during work hours.
Husvar said advertisers such as Sprint, Samsung and Vizio sponsored some of last fall’s shows, but those were one-year deals, so this fall’s programming is wide open, thus the big push during the upfront.
With Fox now taking “LWB” from the experimental stage to standard fare, what about expanding into another timeslot?
Ed Bunnell, EVP of programming at Fox Sports Interactive, sees a day down the road where specially produced programming could fill the entire 1 p.m.-3 p.m. weekday timeslot.
“There’s no timeline for it, but that’s the way I see it progressing.”