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FoxNews.com Usage Rises With Video Content

5/02/2004 8:00 PM Eastern

Foxnews.com has more than tripled traffic to the broadband section of its Web site since it launched a greatly expanded package of video content in January.

"We've had some significant growth," said Bert Solivan, general manger of Foxnews.com and vice president, news information, of Fox News Channel.

In January, the broadband section of the site logged 222,000 unique visitors. By March, the number rose to 467,000. In the first two weeks of April, the tally was 378,000 unique visitors, putting Fox on pace to reach three-quarters of a million visitors by April 30.

"There's no reason we can't double the amount of traffic," Solivan said. "Our prime time on the Web is midday, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. That's when we peak." More than two-thirds of the usage is the work audience. Overall, Solivan said, 80% to 85% of visitors to the Web site have broadband connections.

Fox's conversion to broadband content on the Internet has been slow compared with other news sites.

Fox News Channel did not operate its own Web site until early 2001, Solivan said. Prior to that, the News Corp. subsidiary News Digital Media operated and ran the Fox News and Fox Sports sites. In the late 1990s, major media corporations often separated their Web operations from their traditional media enterprises, with the thought that the online operations might be spun off as independent companies. But those dreams died quickly amid the dot-com bust.

In late 2000, Solivan said, News Corp. decided to disband News Digital Media, throwing the Web properties back to the operating units.

Solivan and company began working on a business plan to merge the existing Web operation with staffers at Fox News Channel in midtown Manhattan. The conversion was completed on April 7, 2001, with a newly relaunched site under the director of Fox News Channel.

"We started from scratch on the production side and in a lot of ways created a new Web site," Solivan said. Certainly 9/11 spiked usage, and the general ratings uptick at Fox News carried over to the Web, as well.

"When we relaunched, we stripped down the site and brought it down to the bare components. We had to make money in a short period of time," Solivan said.

"We wanted to create a brand extension of Fox News Channel, so you knew it was Fox News on the Web," he said. "The look had to be consistent with on-air. And we used the site as a beachhead for Fox Fans." More than 1.5 million people have signed up for newsletters, special marketing materials and promotions, he added.

The site has gone from 1.5 million unique users a month and 37 million page views per month in the early days to about 5.8 million unique users per month and 164 million page views a month in early 2004, Solivan said.

Solivan started to dabble in video in 2003, posting on the site a handful of short video segments, typically important sections of key interviews or wrap-up features from Fox's top anchors. Fox decided not to charge a fee or require registration for the extra video content, he said.

In January, the channel launched its big broadband push. Each day, 40 to 50 video clips are available under the "Fox News Access" section of the site. Clips include campaign video, hourly news and business news, interview segments, entertainment clips and talking points from anchors, including Bill O'Reilly, Neil Cavuto and Brit Hume. The Fox Fans section also carries some video exclusive to those users. Video clips are available in both RealPlayer and Windows Media Player formats.

The "Access" section of the site is sponsored by SBC Communications, and also features one spot for rotating ads. With the two deals, the site is breaking even, Solivan said.

Is Fox pitching the site to broadband operators for their high-speed home pages? "We've talked to some of the providers," Solivan said, "and we may do something yet."

Solivan said Fox hasn't done live streaming yet, but it does have a Webcam, equipped with Nightvision, at the square in Baghdad where the Saddam Hussein statue was toppled last year.

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