SBJ/November 6 - 12, 2006/This Weeks News

FSN to test online access to fight

At a time when YouTube and MySpace are offering broadband content for free, Fox Sports Net is preparing to test how much fans will shell out for a fight that’s already happened.

FSN will see if online users will pay
to watch a taped version of Evander
Holyfield’s upcoming fight.

The network plans to charge broadband users $44.95 for online access to its upcoming Evander Holyfield fight in San Antonio on Nov. 10. During a two-week window following the event, subscribers will be able to watch the entire fight card, which will include two title fights. Users will have to watch the entire program, even after the fact. Even though they will be watching via the Internet, users will not be able to fast-forward through the action.

FSN is making Holyfield’s fight with Fres Oquendo available live via traditional pay-per-view at the same $44.95 price point in the United States. International viewers will be able to watch the match live via foxsports.com for the same fee.

“We think this is a nice way to reach the international market,” said FSN President Bob Thompson. “The Internet can be a complementary source for reaching people outside of the United States.”

Thompson pointed to CSTV’s NCAA basketball tournament package — which streamed all the games to CBS SportsLine — as a good online model for the company.

FSN is viewing its upcoming online pay-per-view replay as more of a technical experiment than a money-making venture. It created the $44.95 price point simply as a way to stay consistent with the live pay-per-view event. It hasn’t sold any sponsorships to the online offering and doesn’t expect any before the match.

“We’re going to learn from this experience,” said Brian Grey, senior vice president of Fox Interactive Media. “It opens the door to do more exploration around the content users want to consume.”

The technical platform will come from IGN’s Direct2Drive, which is owned by Fox Interactive Media. Direct2Drive has experience selling downloads and streams for FSN. It plans to stream the fight to foxsports.com, which will set up a special fight page. Users can view the fight, as often as they like, via a full-screen media player on the site.

FSN executives are going to be particularly interested in getting customer feedback on technical aspects, from video quality to ease of use. They also expect to gather information on price points. Eventually, FSN executives expect to be able to offer a pay-per-view event in the United States via broadband. “We want to prove that we can do this and scale it,” Grey said.

And FSN executives plan to keep an eye on free video Web sites to make sure that they aren’t illegally carrying the fight.

“If we see things on YouTube and MySpace, they will get a call from our attorneys,” Thompson said.

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