Fox Sports, looking to deepen its reach with younger audiences on social platforms, has partnered with YouTube Space LA to produce a daily web-video series explicitly focused on fast-breaking stories that will be shared online.
The videos, each about one minute long, are posted to Fox Sports’ YouTube channel as well as FoxSports.com. The goal is to produce four to 10 videos per day, centered on quick, snarky commentary to harness social buzz immediately as it hits the sports world.
“Until now, we haven’t had a video-based program designed to be quick and active on social media to promote stories,” said Pete Vlastelica, EVP of digital for Fox Sports.
The @TheBuzzer series, produced from the YouTube Space LA facility in Playa Vista, Calif., soft-launched earlier this summer. Last week, leading up to the official launch in time for the NFL’s 2014-15 season, Fox Sports installed a full-time host for the show: Nicole Dabeau, previously a correspondent for “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Insider,” who is repped by Creative Management Entertainment Group.
Currently, @TheBuzzer videos collectively average about 500,000 views per week — relatively modest, by YouTube standards. But according to Fox Sports, more than 40% of the traffic for the series comes from social-media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Google+.
“The program is designed to anticipate what will trend socially,” said Vlastelica, adding that Fox Sports’ 50-member online and social editorial team is on the lookout for trends and stories to produce for @TheBuzzer. “That’s a skill in and of itself, understanding what gets shared on Twitter and Facebook,” he said.
Over all, the idea is to more closely align the programming on Fox Sports 1 — 21st Century Fox’s 24-hour cable channel launched a year ago — with the programmer’s digital properties, according to Vlastelica. “”We’re not a TV company,” he said. “We’re a media company designed to reach viewers wherever they are.”
Fox Sports has previously dabbled in digital-native video content with Digital VideoFest, a contest in which a dozen YouTube creators vied for a development deal with the programmer. The winner was AVByte, a YouTube channel run by brothers Vijay and Antonius Nazareth, for their “This Week in Sports” recap show set to music.
Fox Sports’ @TheBuzzer series is sponsored by Ford Motor Co., which also backed the series with AVByte.
Even with revenue behind it, the program will continue to be a digital sandbox of sorts. With @TheBuzzer, Fox Sports has been able to discover in a “fast-fail model” what works for digital-video publishing — and what doesn’t, said Liam Collins, head of YouTube Space LA.
“If you are in an environment where there is not a big cost to experimenting, that’s a good thing,” Collins said. “If you’re Fox Sports and want to build even more audience, that audience is going to tell you what they want to see.”