By Sahil Patel
Fox Sports has spent the past year actively producing original programming for online and social platforms, with two series in particular, “No Filter with Katie Nolan” and “@TheBuzzer,” scoring high in terms of viewership and engagement.
Following the initial success of “No Filter,” which was available across FoxSports.com, YouTube, and Facebook, Fox Sports greenlit a half-hour version of the format in March. Rebranded as “Garbage Time with Katie Nolan,” the series airs every Sunday night on Fox Sports 1 starting at 9:30pm ET.
Now, Fox Sports is aiming to make a similar move with “@TheBuzzer,” which was conceived by the company to be a new type of sports-news show for the millennial generation. Fox Sports is currently in discussions to adapt “@TheBuzzer” for TV, specifically on its flagship cable network Fox Sports 1.
The move is part of a broader strategy at Fox Sports to develop programming brands online that can also exist — and succeed — across multiple platforms including TV, according to Pete Vlastelica, EVP of digital for the company. “A view is a view is a view,” he says. “It doesn’t matter if the viewer watched it live on air, or on FoxSports.com, YouTube, or Facebook because it was shared by a friend.”
As an example, he points to how Fox Sports measures viewership for “Garbage Time.” The company counts “total multi-
platform views” of the show over a 72-hour period. That includes live viewers for the linear broadcast at 9:30pm, but also those who watch clips online over the next few days. “We are producing segments of the show that are designed to be shared the next day online,” says Vlastelica. “It’s multi-platform content that just happens to be have its first window on air.”
The approach has been working, according to Fox Sports. Since its premiere, “Garbage Time”’s most-watched episode generated 1.6 million “multi-platform” views in the first three days. It was the first time a series episode eclipsed the 1-million view mark in that three-day measurement period. Vlastelica credits a NASCAR broadcast that served as a “strong” lead-in for the episode on Fox Sports 1.
But the very next week, with no live sports to help, “Garbage Time” scored nearly 1.5 million total views. Some 700,000 of those views came from digital platforms, says Vlastelica.
For a format that was incubated on the web, it should come as no surprise that the web is still responsible for a sizable chunk of the viewership — and Fox Sports is more than happy with that. “In fact, you can argue that there is more value with a view on a digital platform, because there could have been more intent or engagement on the part of the user when the view was happening,” says Vlastelica.
Going forward, Fox Sports will continue with this digital-first approach. “We are developing more and more programs that can launch digitally, but always with an eye toward crossing it over to TV,” says Vlastelica.
The latest example is an animated comedy series called “Fight Stories” in which celebrities discuss their most memorable fights. The web series, which was distributed across FoxSports.com, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter with “virtually no promotion” according to a Fox Sports spokesperson, has pulled in more than 134,000 views. A TV adaptation, which features older sketches as well as a few new segments that have not aired yet, premiered on Fox Sports 1 last week.
Of course, Fox Sports’ most successful online series is “@TheBuzzer.” In April, the show generated 40 million views across
all of the platforms its distributed on, including Facebook, YouTube, and FoxSports.com. (As we’ve previously reported, Facebook is home to a significant majority of that consumption.)
While it’s not clear yet what a TV version of“@TheBuzzer” could look like, the show already feels primed for a TV adaptation. “I think the format translates very well — focusing on the first few seconds of a video to capture a viewer’s attention as we do for ‘@TheBuzzer’ on Facebook, that works well with TV,” says Vlastelica. The focus, at least initially, is to find natural points of integration for the series within daily programming airing on Fox Sports 1.
Fox Sports has done some tests with “@TheBuzzer” content on TV. The web series has spin-off versions dedicated to soccer and NASCAR (with more on the way). Some of those segments have already appeared on European soccer- and NASCAR-related programming on Fox Sports 1.