Saturday, December 23, 2017

Some Thoughts on FSN Content Promotion & A Reversal Of Sorts

While driving towards my holiday destination yesterday, I elected to listen to the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast, because my drive was close to the length of the podcast (intelligent speed on the Podcast Addict app cut down some of the time).

And either Kyle Costner or Andrew Bucholtz (sorry, don't remember which one) made an extremely valid point regarding the sale of the FOX Sports Regional Networks to Disney.  Paraphrasing, one of them mentioned that FOX really wasn't very good at integrating them into the national business of FS1 and FOX broadcast network.

And if it wasn't foggy, I would have clapped it out for that point but I needed to hang onto the wheel.

To be clear, my frame of reference on this particular topic is from about 2004 forward, so I can't say how the national MLB package was promoted before that time, but when it came to national programming investments for FSN, I personally never felt it got the proper, or any, promotion from the big brothers.  From my own recollections, which get worse every day, the only time I can recall ever seeing any type of FSN promotion on "Big FOX" was a men's basketball tripleheader they carried where three of the top five ranked teams in the nation (#5 Duke, #2 North Carolina & #1 UCLA) would be playing on Sunday, New Year's Eve in 2006 on FSN.

That's it, and this is a network chain that had a pair of highly coveted pro tennis events for a two year stretch (Indian Wells & Miami).  Those events couldn't wait to get away from FSN fast enough and paid for time on ESPN instead.

So when it came to promoting anything on FSN, I can see where it was a bit tough for FOX to do it and four things came to mind:

  • Not every RSN affiliated with FOX Sports Net was actually owned by FOX or carried the FOX Sports Net branding.  
  • It isn't realistic to promote something that could conceivably not air on the RSN in your area where something could preempt the programming.  Regional pro sports typically trumped the college sports FSN carried.  In a few cases with Comcast SportsNets, they often aired their nightly news program & would join whatever live event FSN was airing in progress
  • The FOX Sports branding itself didn't appear on a lot of the national programming
    • ACC Sunday Night Hoops didn't always use the FSN logo on the score bar or bug and the mic flags often carried the conference's logo, which continues to this day, albeit the arrangement that FOX receives its ACC content from is a bit different
    • There was a five or six year stretch where the FSN branding disappeared from content like the national college football they carried, where they went with the branding of "College Football Saturday" and "(Insert Conference Name Here) Hoops".  That branding ended right around the time Comcast RSNs elected to stop carrying FSN programming and the return of on-air FOX Sports branding.
  • After Comcast RSNs stopped carrying FSN programming, the network really ceased to be national.  Arrangements have been made to carry FOX Sports Networks programming in non-FSN markets as needed (football briefly aired on local stations in San Francisco,  Boston & Washington, DC and has a few working arrangements for Big East basketball), but there was no point to try to promote what wasn't going to be available outside of FSN affiliated areas on FOX College Sports, a local station or through online means.
Now here comes a reversal of what I believed earlier when it comes to content from the Big East & Big 12 "national" contracts that they showed on FSN: While they don't own those regional networks anymore, they might find it easier to distribute that content.  They might have to go back to being a bit nameless or faceless when it comes to the branding (ie. "Big 12 Football", or something similar to the RSNs airing WCC basketball), but it could be easier to be a distributor of those games to AT&T, ESPN, Comcast & other independent RSNs, if they don't want to keep them for themselves to add to FS1 or FS2.  They can put those games out for bid if they want.  They aren't having to make a deal with Comcast for backdrop programming on the NBC Sports RSNs, they're just selling a two hour window for a college basketball game or a three hour, 30 minute window for a football game, which they do now for Big East basketball as mentioned above.  Work out the digital distribution to keep it within FOX Sports Go and figure something out if an RSN group wants to stream it (they probably will).

And the promotion of these events on RSNs, which FOX wasn't really good at, isn't something they need to worry about.  They just need to distribute as widely as possible.

Any thoughts on this?  I'd be curious to hear what you think.  Happy Holidays!

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