Web site rehabbed

Fox.com to move from promos to programs

News Corp.’s News Digital Media is readying to reveal Fox.com’s facelift, showing more signs of original programming than promotion.

Starting next week, Fox.com will bow the Web companion for “American High,” a reality show in the same vein as MTV’s “The Real World,” but which follows students in a Chicago high school.

Show will use the Web to expand on its characters’ experiences. Site, which bows July 24, will build what Fox calls “communities” around cast members that will include individual video diaries, live chats and message boards. Fans will be able to submit their own video diaries about high school life, as well.

“If someone relates to one of the cast members, they’ll be able to learn more about the person and interact with them online,” said Jordan Kurzweil, who was upped to senior veep of entertainment in February.

“American High” bows on the Fox network Aug. 2. It was created by documentary filmmaker R.J. Cutler (“The War Room” and “The Perfect Candidate”).

Long chastised for its un-Net-savvy nature (considering the Web-savvy demographic its films and TV shows target), News Digital Media group shows strong signs that Fox is finally finding its way out of the fog.

Fox.com plans to create Web destinations for Fox’s library of properties (“The Simpsons,” “The X-Files,” “Ally McBeal”), original content based on characters or plots from Fox’s shows and completely original entertainment projects. Site will bow in the fall.

Fox has previously announced “TooHotForFox.com,” a series of reality clips dedicated to animals on the attack and police chase footage that was deemed too incendiary for broadcast TV. Web site will contain several hundred videos from the library of Fox reality programming in a searchable database. One video will be featured each day.

Fox also launched the site FreakyLinks.com in February; site was “created” by a character on Fox’s upcoming fall show “Freaky Links.”

News Digital is working with all its divisions — Fox Broadcasting Co., 20th Century Fox Television, Fox Television Studios — and lot-based production companies such as Chris Carter’s Ten Thirteen Prods. and David E. Kelley Prods. to develop Web programming.

Should they prove successful, Fox.com projects could migrate back to TV. Goal is to make Web programming part of the production process for every film and TV show Fox produces.

“It’s not a matter of us waking up. I can say we’ve been doing this stuff for years,” Kurzweil said. “We didn’t get caught up in the fever. We’ve seen pretty big mistakes get made and have taken a sober approach.”

While many of the projects are centered on TV projects, Fox.com is also readying several movie-related projects based on upcoming pics.

“TV shows lend themselves better to adaptation than films,” Kurzweil said, “but several film adaptations are being worked on. Internet shows must be updated constantly. You have to get people to come back. TV projects allow that to happen faster.”

Fox is clearly serious about its new venture. Only months ago, News Digital Media moved its entire staff of 400 employees, including prexy Jon Richmond, Kurzweil and its other affiliates Fox.com, FoxSports.com and FoxNews.com to a newly remodeled 25,000-square foot facility near Santa Monica.

Company is looking to generate revenues through advertising, ancillary rights, licensing, sponsorships, subscriptions and pay-per-view events.

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