Fox Sports Net: Highlighting Advertisers

With shows like The Best Damn Sports Show Period and the upcoming action-sports daily 54321, Fox Sports Net is trying to boost its fortunes with advertising opportunities that go beyond the 30-second TV spot. Tracy Dolgin, president of Fox Sports Net, is pioneering the use of what he calls immersion to bring content and advertising closer together. Dolgin says that the Best Damn Sports Show’s format provides ample opportunities for product immersion, from a KFC wings-eating contest between two of the hosts to a demonstration of Dockers stainproof pants.

“We were into the worst ad sales market in memory [with the launch of The Best Damn Sports Show Period]. We needed something that would highlight advertisers and we had a venue that was perfect for it. Its format is a bunch of guys sitting around and dealing with their lives as sports stars and sports fans and the show naturally talked about what they cared about. That show was really a pioneer in doing that. It improved the content of the show by having a lot of fun. It’s really a lifestyle show about sports, which is opposed to what is done in most sports shows. It was a natural fit as opposed to a forced fit,” he says.



MDN: How does immersion work?

DOLGIN KFC, they have a new product. Literally seeing John Kruk happily eating as many wings and piling them on the table with Tom Arnold, you can’t buy a commercial that says that. They don’t say they love this product, but you’re witnessing that they love the product. What better way to say that? The running gag between Tom and Kruk is that both of them love food more than life itself. To have a contest on that show is a great opportunity. When you can do that, it’s a win-win-win. A win for the advertiser, who gets the product in the best light. A win for us, because we get a better show.

MDN: What’s the difference between immersion and integration?

DOLGIN It’s having a product demonstrated so you can see how something [an advertiser’s product] works. That’s a far step more than another show that has a [sponsored] Play of the Day.

MDN: What’s the success of making an immersion work?

DOLGIN The key to the whole thing is something that is natural. It does not seem forced and it does not seem unreal.

MDN: What’s the new show, 54321, all about? Why will it appeal to the Y generation?

DOLGIN The traditional sports world is skewing older and older as the years go. In the world of team sports, the value is about team as opposed to “I.” It’s all about being part of a group and following what your city and what your team has done. It’s the traditional sports value of teamwork … The defining thing is sports about individuals and individuality. It’s not about fitting in and fitting into the team … These kids, while some are traditional sports fans, it’s more the exception than the rule. These people are fans of what we call extreme sports. It’s really what these kids are living and breathing. It’s as much about the sport, the lifestyle. The lifestyle is integrated into the sport, not just what they do.

MDN: How does 54321 differ from other treatments of action sports?

DOLGIN: This show will focus on the lifestyle, treat them like sports and cover the lifestyle. That news is as important as who won or who lost … It’s a news show in some degree like Entertainment Tonight is a traditional news show.

MDN: A new definition of news?

DOLGIN We did focus groups about what is news in the area. They rejected the term news. We asked them about whether they would like information about what happened, why it’s good, telestrating, what they [the action sports stars] wear, what music they listen to. They said, “We love that.” They just don’t like the word news.

MDN: How does an advertiser fit into this?

DOLGIN It gives you the opportunity for a complete immersion of the product. If it’s part of their lifestyle, it’s news. If we do a segment on the best video game that’s out, that’s news. It’s not integrating the advertising into the news. Sometimes the advertising is the news. Or they want to know what car these guys are driving. We’ll have to a separation of church and state to cover what’s news. But there’s so much of it. It’s so hard to reach these 12- to 24-year-olds. If you can reach them with the first show with something that is their whole, it’s the opportunity to get your brand imbued with them.

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