FOX'S DOLGIN PREVIEWS KICK-OFF OF NHL COVERAGE
Tracy Dolgin is Exec VP of Marketing for Fox Sports, which
is set to debut its NHL coverage on April 2. THE SPORTS BUSINESS
DAILY spoke with Dolgin yesterday on the network's plans on
taking on its second pro sport.
THE DAILY: Who do you expect to tune in to hockey and will
your broadcasts be targeted to a specific audience?
DOLGIN: We're shooting for a broad audience, but our entire
campaign and everything we're trying to do with hockey is to gain
new viewers. We assume that current hockey viewers are really
very fanatical. Hockey has some of the strongest fans in the
world and we assume these people will come back. So everything
we're doing to start, from a marketing standpoint, is to try to
attract new viewers. And, where we think the large percentage of
those viewers comes from are young people. Probably the
strongest will be the 18-34 demographic and the reason for this
is the perfect viewer for hockey is actually the prototypical Fox
viewer -- because the sport psychographically matches Fox
programming. It's edgy, it's in your face, it's fast, it's
aggressive. It's the same kind of appeal our programming has.
So, we're going to be spending a huge amount of time on air to
try to convince viewers who probably have never seen hockey or
maybe at best casually viewed hockey they should give this sport
THE DAILY: Do you think that the NHL will ever be able to
take on an NBA-type strategy of banking on big names? Are the
potential stars there for the league to do that?
DOLGIN: That's half the strategy. You have to understand
what you're starting with, which is a very strong regional sport
that you're trying to make into a national sport. I think the
biggest thing going for us is something that is unique in my mind
in the history of sports television. Historically what has
happened, in how sports have become popular, is a sport tends to
be passed down from generation to generation. Not to be sexist,
but the most typical case is from father to son. Hockey is a
first, it's a new world out there, and for the first time you
have a chance of going in the other direction. ... Kids today are
not playing basketball like they used to, certainly not playing
baseball like they used to because you need a big open field
space, and a lot of people together. What they're playing is
hockey. That's where I think the real growth opportunity is in
hockey. We have these kids who are out there playing it . It
used to be that the father or the mother would bring the child in
to watch, and I think that you're going to see a lot of that go
in the opposite direction. ... You have this whole waiting
grassroots audience that's going to grab on to this. Luckily for
us, the thing these young people are watching, that they think is
hip and cool and aggressive and fits their attitude -- it's Fox.
You have this natural marriage of where they watch TV and what
they do, and they will bring in this adult audience with it.
THE DAILY: As far as the presentation of the games
themselves, are regular hockey fans going to feel welcome or is
it going to be almost Hockey 101 where they might feel that the
announcers are explaining a little too much?
DOLGIN: It's the same game. We haven't invented a new game
here and we're trying to make it as accessible and as fun and
exciting to a new person, but at the same time, recognizing you
have this core built in fan and you have to entertain them and
you have to show them as good coverage of hockey that they're
used to viewing. We have absolutely no worry about turning off
or boring that core fan. And I don't think that core fan is
going to be upset that the graphics look a little more younger
and a little more video game-like to make that younger new viewer
feel at home. I had much more fear going into the NFL.
THE DAILY: What's your yardstick for measuring success? Is
there going to be a ratings point at the end of the year that
you'll be able to point to?
DOLGIN: We're in this for the long term, so we're not going
to be sitting there staring at the rating sheets when they come
out in the first year because we have to grow this thing. We
realize that we have to keep investing, investing, investing as
this thing snowballs and then hits the critical mass that we need
it to do.
THE DAILY: Have you looked ahead to next season to
expanding the schedule or will that all be done later?
DOLGIN: Everything is going to be done at the end of the
year. But our intent is to do more games next year than we did
this year and more games the year after that and to really grow
with this and to grow it underneath us. ... All the signs are in
the right direction. It had to be put on the right network, and
this is the right network. It had to be put on a network which
would invest in it, which we are doing. Somebody just had to put
their foot on the accelerator, and that's what we're doing with