SBJ/Aug. 12-18, 2013/Media

FoxSports.com refurbishment will re-create site as digital counterpart for new channel

The launch of Fox Sports 1 is primarily a linear TV initiative, but the arrival of the network also is prompting changes for FoxSports.com.

Network executives are using the arrival of FS1 to remake the website as the channel’s true digital counterpart. A more blog-styled visual refresh is already in place, and will be followed soon by a new content management system.

More broadly, Fox Sports executives plan for FoxSports.com to be the home of supplemental content for numerous FS1 shows. Nearly all of the FS1 studio shows will have digital producers embedded with them to create Web- and mobile-based content.

Second-screen companion viewing also will be a fundamental tenet of FS1, with initiatives including a new Connect Live polling application that is designed to be used in concert with “Crowd Goes Wild,” FS1’s talk show hosted by Regis Philbin.

“There are going to be very close tie-ins between FS1 and FoxSports.com. We see the site as a real extension of the channel,” said Pete Vlastelica, Fox Sports senior vice president of digital. “The producers that will embed into the studio show productions are really full extensions of our editorial team. ”

TV Everywhere will also be a fundamental component of FS1, and the network is set to launch its new mobile application, Fox Sports Go, on Saturday in concert with the channel’s debut. The app will include live streaming content from Fox Sports, FS1, the company’s 22 regional sports networks and more than 200 over-the-air affiliates on an authenticated basis, along with more basic material such as scores, news, statistics, advanced game trackers and highlights.

Several of Fox Sports’ key rivals, such as ESPN and Turner Sports, already have extensive experience in broad TV Everywhere deployments.

“This is a really big moment and huge shift for us. What we’re really talking about is the dawn of our multiplatform distribution strategy,” said Clark Pierce, Fox Sports senior vice president of mobile and advanced platforms. “Being able to take Fox Sports content with you wherever you go is a big step forward and something we’ve wanted to provide for some time.

“But we see our product as quite a bit different than some other [mobile streaming] things out there like Watch ESPN or HBO Go, because we’re different. Between our RSN and over-the-air partners and all the content we’re pulling in, we see Fox Sports Go as really a one-of-a-kind product.”

Fox Sports Go will provide about 1,100 live events a year, depending on the market. Local blackouts will still be enforced. A Web-based version of the app, FoxSportsGo.com, will provide the same live content.

Much of the digital revamping has been done in-house, and the company recently hired Ben Gerst, formerly of The New York Times, as its new senior vice president of platform development. Gerst will look to make Fox Sports more of a technology company instead of a pure media operation, and seek out new means of digital content presentation.

But there have been some outside firms aiding in Fox’s digital reworking, including Deloitte Digital and iPowow, a Los Angeles-based interactive media company. Fox Sports first became aligned with iPowow last year through its Speed network, building out live fan voting applications, and the company will now provide the technology powering Connect Live on “Crowd Goes Wild.”

The idea is for Connect Live to provide much more immediacy than other second-screen applications based on Facebook, Twitter or texting.

“What we’re doing is allowing the TV audience directly into the story line of the show and have a real-time, direct impact upon the conversation,” said Gavin Douglas, iPowow chief creative officer. The company also has worked with Top Rank Boxing, the UFC and Vodafone, among others. “We’ve built sort of an immediate feedback loop. That polling data will come in and then directly change where the conversation goes from there. The possibilities with that are very exciting.”

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