Retooled Emphasizes Video


Fox Sports relaunched its Web site last week, sporting more than 600 video clips, a personalized news and highlights section, and an attitude more in tune with its cable and broadcast TV offerings.

"We blew out everything single thing that had been done before," said Fox Sports Net president Tracy Dolgin. "It's a completely different approach."

That approach is to make the site more entertaining and more reflective of Fox Sports's on-air attitude than a site dominated by statistics, Dolgin said. Users will certainly find all pertinent scores, standings and highlights, but also more entertaining applications inside a TV-like atmosphere.

"We're trying to make it an entertaining experience," Dolgin said.

Over the past year, major media companies have been bringing separate, Internet-only initiatives back into the fold of their existing television wings, and Fox Sports is no exception.

"In January, we said, 'Let's treat the Internet as nothing more than a different form of distribution for Fox Sports content,' " rather trying to create a separate business built around the Web site, said Dolgin.

The pared-down Internet staff now works side-by-side with TV sports producers, tying together resources from FSN's regional and national sports-news desks.

The site, which launched over Labor Day weekend, houses more than 600 video clips, including footage from The Last Word with Jim Rome
and other already-produced television pieces. The Web site also gathers video clips from each FSN regional network to post each day.

Fox Sports' NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB and college football and basketball commentators contribute to the site. And users can personalize the sports highlights they want by submitting a Zip code. That allows fans to receive player updates and news for specific teams.

Other areas of the site include an Internet game section produced with WildTangent, in which fans can attempt to hit a Major League Baseball fastball, and the Anna Kournikova video section, which dominated the video-streaming category when the site went live.

Fox Sports does have some ground to make up. After peaking at 1.5 million unique visitors during last year's NFL season, the site's hits dipped below 1 million this summer. Some of that could be due to seasonal factors, but senior vice president and general manager Ross Levinsohn, expects to surpass that 1.5 million with this football season and heavy TV cross-promotion. "I think we'll do far better than we've done," he said.

From Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 — when the site debuted — Levinsohn said traffic increased nine times, and video-stream requests tripled — largely for Kournikova.

The site's new direction puts a different spin on profitability. Dolgin makes no bones about the top goal: to improve TV ratings, "where the real revenue is today."

Fox Sports also is saving money by using content from the TV production staff. "The marginal costs drop way, way, way down," he said.