Fox exec: Platform proliferation a challenge because of unique content needs
By Chantal Tode
December 27, 2013
The Fox Now mobile app
The growth in mobile video consumption is creating a significant opportunity for Fox Broadcasting to reach users with engaging content while also challenging the company to meet the unique programming needs of each audience, according to David Wertheimer, president of digital at Fox Broadcasting Co.
Fox Broadcasting has an active role in mobile, including offering the Fox Now mobile app, which enables users to watch full episodes of its programs and has Twitter and Facebook integrated into the app. Users can also sync the app with their TV to view bonus content.
Earlier this year, Fox Broadcasting was one of the initial sponsors when Shazam revamped its iOS application with new features that hone in on location and make it easier for consumers to tag content using audio recognition (see story). The company was also one of the early adopters of Twitter's Amplify program, enabling media companies to deliver real-time in-Tweet video clips.
Here, Mr. Wertheimer discusses the important role that the convergence of mobile and social is playing for Fox Broadcasting, how that role will grow going forward and why mobile monetization is not a big challenge for the company.
What is Fox Broadcasting’s biggest opportunity in mobile?
We see a tremendous number of people beginning to use our mobile platforms in a couple of different ways to engage with our shows. The first is what I call a second screen experience where people are watching television and use the mobile platform to get deeper into the show, to comment with their friends on social media, to express their excitement, delight or whatever it is.
That takes several forms. One is on our app. Fox Now has a really great second screen experience with Twitter feeds and so on and so forth associated with our shows. And then also directly, people using Twitter, apps, Facebook or whatever simultaneously to watching the show.
That’s one bucket of how mobile is extremely important to us today.
On a parallel track, people are beginning to consume much more of our content on mobile using our platforms like Fox Now.
So mobile is becoming a very important distribution method for us as a way for viewers to watch our shows wherever and whenever they want.
It is not a huge surprise, but as people get more and more comfortable with their mobile platforms and devices and they are on the go, it gives them a great way to catch up on the shows that they are watching when they are not in front of a television.
How big a challenge is monetizing the growing mobile audience?
Monetization is not a huge challenge for us. We have the benefit of being largely a video based platform which gives you certain advantages. Meaning if you can roll video into an app then you can very quickly roll advertising in with it. For the most part, that works seamlessly with mobile.
A lot of the mobile monetization challenges that people have typically fall into the category of how to translate display advertising on your Web site, whether you are Facebook, Yahoo or whoever, to a mobile platform in a way that works for the consumer. We tend to not do that kind of advertising that much. We spend most of our energy on video advertising which works pretty well.
What is the biggest challenge Fox faces on mobile?
The biggest challenge for us as we look at these platforms is that as the platforms continue to proliferate, the operating systems change, it is always a challenge to manage multiple platforms from multiple device manufacturers and multiple OS versions.
It is always a challenge to make sure that your apps are all running the way that you want on those platforms. I don’t think that is anything unique to our business – that is just a challenge to mobile overall.
It is easy to launch an app. It is hard to make sure that it runs perfectly over time with all the permutations.
What impact is mobile having on how Fox programs content?
We are very much in the beginning of mobile consumption. We are learning a lot from our users in terms of what they are watching. You do see a different mix of product that people watch on different platforms. For example, on the Xbox, certain of our animated shows do extremely well, better than they do on traditional platforms.
On mobile, you will see comedies over-index because it is shorter, light-hearted and the visuals aren’t quite as important. Whereas, drama seems to be more of a big screen, tablet kind of product.
People will watch different kinds of programs on a larger screen than they typically will on a smaller screen and on the go.
We are figuring out everyday how best to tailor the platforms to the kind of things that people want to watch on those platforms.
One of the big lessons learned, although the platforms are generally not the same – you have to program them differently. No matter what your user experience is, you have to look at it platform by platform and think about what is the user experience consumers want on this particular platform and how do I get that to them in a way that allows them to get to what they want as fast as possible and allows them to stay as long as you can.
We program all of the devices independently. We don’t have a particular team that does it because our digital programming team has to factor in all of these permutations.
How successful have Fox's social and second-screen efforts been to date?
Social is incredibly important to us. We are the number one social network - we have 300 million-plus across our shows on Facebook, across Twitter, so on and so forth.
We go out of our way to create content that can be shared socially, give people things that they want in the social context. Programming our content is a very platform by platform manner, it is very similar to what I talked about in mobile. We try to give people different things in Facebook than on Twitter because the audiences that are interacting with the platforms are fundamentally a little bit different.
When we look at mobile, we see social as being one of the most important things that we do in a mobile context and we try to engage with viewers on an individualized basis, give them the stuff that they will hopefully share with their social network. So far, it has been very successful.
What do you think will be the biggest advancements in mobile for the broadcasting industry next year?
You are starting to see a lot of tablet competition and larger screens and phablets which seem to be taking off. You are going to see a lot more viewing on these platforms as people have larger screens and are becoming that much comfortable with it. That is going to be really important.
Also, fortunately playing to our strengths, you are going to see Facebook and Twitter both double down on TV and what they can do to help people get as great an experience as they can from watching TV. You are going to see both of them be super aggressive, and we are working both Twitter and Facebook and many other social networks.
You will start to see wearables platforms emerge. We are beginning to look at how we can enable certain lightweight experiences on those platforms. That’s very experimental for us at this stage.
The obvious things are keeping fans of shows up to date on what is happening with the talent or the airings of the show. To make sure they know when their favorite shows are coming back and are going to air.
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York
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