FOX Sports Explains Why It’s Passing Content To AOL

AOL FOXFOX Sports wants to bring its content to where users watch it. AOL wants more video content. Deal.

It was in that team spirit that the two companies revealed Wednesday a syndication partnership that would bring FOX Sports content to AOL properties.

“AOL really fits in with our off-network digital strategy,” said Ben Maggin, VP of business development at FOX Sports Digital. “Users are consuming sports content on a variety of platforms, and it’s imperative for us to push out content to where they’re consuming content. AOL has significant reach, and it’s an audience we want to reach.”

FOX Sports will direct sell all the video inventory appearing on AOL itself. Those terms clinched the deal, according to Maggin.

AOL will provide backfill for FOX Sports’ content, which will run through AOL’s technology, Adap.tv. The ad standard will be pre-roll, although FOX Sports content frequently includes on-air sponsorships as well.

The companies declined to disclose projections about how many video impressions the partnership would add.

The day after the announcement, FOX Sports content was already running in the carousel of AOL.com’s video sections. For the first couple of months, FOX Sports will let all its content flow through the platform. Then it will start curating and creating future content based on performance.

But unlike FoxSports.com, which attracts a hardcore sports enthusiast, Maggin said he expects the AOL deal to attract more casual sports fans. The content will reflect that, and may include lighter pieces around areas like sports star fashion.

The deal includes Fox Sports’ most digitally focused content, like the social media show @TheBuzzer and Garbage Time, a show that started digital-only but moved to broadcast.

Even if FOX Sports doesn’t have rights to an event, like the Olympics, it will create content around the event. That means creating commentary clips or interviews that don’t involve showing the actual footage from a game.

Digital rights clearance to sports content is a tricky issue. Many sites, FOX Sports included, simply have to work around showing clips from shows they don’t have for the rights to, Maggin said.

But beyond the big pro sports leagues – NFL, NHL, MLB and NBA -- there’s more room for digital content to appear in areas like college sports and football, which are less restrictive, Maggin said. FOX Sports’ digital rights reflect this.

And digital brands as a whole have been making headway: The NFL created a YouTube channel this January and signed a deal with Facebook. And for this college basketball season, Facebook showed March Madness clips.

The deal comes as FOX Sports opens doors to more content consumption across platforms. Fans can watch its content on linear TV via TV Everywhere, for example.

Mobile video will be a focus. It plans, through the AOL partnership, to create content and “experiences that are better for mobile,” Maggin said, including better ad executions and interfaces. It also wants to leverage push notifications and mobile alerts to drive consumption.

“We definitely believe in the multiplatform approach to content and platform, and that includes FOX Sports, the dot-com and the off-network opportunities like AOL,” Maggin said.

 

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