SBJ/July 14-20, 2014/In Depth

Fox deploys ‘super serve’ coverage strategy

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Fox Sports will return to what it’s calling a “super serve” programming strategy for its coverage of this week’s MLB All-Star Game, using its 24-hour sports channel Fox Sports 1 and live streaming app Fox Sports Go to surround the event.

Kevin Burkhardt (left), Gabe Kapler and Frank Thomas will handle pregame duties.
Photo by: Fox Sports
That’s the same strategy Fox used during the Super Bowl and for NASCAR’s Speed Weeks. And it appears to be a blueprint for how the News Corp.-owned media company plans to treat big sports events.

“We take an event like the All-Star Game and try to surround it with programming on Fox Sports 1 to take advantage of the event and promote the event,” said Bill Wanger, Fox Sports Media Group’s executive vice president of programming, research and content strategy. “We’re surrounding the week with cool All-Star Game programming to get people in the mood and get people jazzed up.”

Starting last week, Fox Sports 1 was scheduled to carry 25 hours of original programming in the lead-up to the All-Star Game, including expanded studio shows such as “America’s Pregame” and “Fox Sports Live.”

Fox’s other sports channel, Fox Sports 2, will repeat some of Fox Sports 1’s programming but will not have any
original shows around the All-Star Game. Fox Sports Go will stream the game live, marking the first time that MLB’s All-Star Game will be available digitally.

The reason for the new strategy is Fox Sports 1, which launched last August and is able to carry more programming to surround the event. In past years, the broadcast channel would carry the game and rely on competitive networks such as ESPN and MLB Network to produce the programming around it.

“Now, rather than just coming on at 7 or 7:30 for the All-Star Game, we can program a whole week and come up with interesting ideas for shows,” Wanger said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be about baseball. We’ll have boxing, NASCAR, UFC. It’s a celebration of the week.”

The bulk of the programming will carry a baseball theme. Fox Sports 1 will carry a 3 1/2-hour version of “MLB Whiparound” Monday afternoon (1-4:30 p.m. ET) from its Los Angeles studios. The show will feature reports from the Hyatt hotel across the street from Minneapolis’ Target Field, where the game will be played. The Hyatt will house news conferences and allow player interviews in the run-up to the game.

“MLB Whiparound” will roll into a 2 1/2-hour version of “America’s Pregame,” which will be produced from the field leading up to the Home Run Derby.

ESPN has the rights to the Home Run Derby, during which time Fox Sports 1 will carry non-baseball programming from NASCAR, the UFC and poker. The channel will expand “Fox Sports Live” to 90 minutes coming out of the Home Run Derby.

The day of the game, Fox Sports 1 will carry two shows from MLB Productions: “MLB All-Star Magic” and “MLB All-Star Game Sneak Peek,” which will lead into a three-hour pregame show shot from Fox’s Los Angeles studio.

During the game on Fox, Fox Sports 1 will carry UFC programming. “We’re not going to put on baseball programming up against the All-Star Game,” Wanger said. “UFC is a different audience.”

Fox Sports 1’s “super serve” week around the MLB All-Star Game will end two days after the game, with the half-hour “Backstage at MLB All-Star Week” leading into the hourlong “Road to Cooperstown: Class of 2014.”

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