21CF Chats: Brian Sullivan, President of Digital for Fox Networks Group, talks primetime live streaming on FOX NOW Live

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Fox Networks Group is dedicated to the development of new technologies that give consumers more choice, control and convenience. The results speak for themselves: Fox Networks Group leads the industry in video on demand (VOD) with FOX and FX combining for six of the top 10 shows September through March. Today it’s taking a groundbreaking step forward to allow viewers to live stream FOX primetime programming across every TV market in the U.S. We talked with Brian Sullivan, president of digital for Fox Networks Group, to learn more about FOX’s big announcement.

What do we need to know about Fox Networks Group’s big announcement, Brian?

Today FOX is launching FOX NOW Live, an enhanced version of our FOX NOW TV Everywhere service featuring nightly live streaming of primetime entertainment programming on a national basis. That means pay TV subscribers nationwide will be able to stream summer primetime programs like “So You Think You Can Dance,” “MasterChef” and “Wayward Pines” at the same time that these shows air in their local time zone. This is an exciting new capability for our TV Everywhere platform and a huge step forward for the industry as it strives to create a more seamless television experience for consumers nationwide. Importantly, it sets the stage for our highly engaged FOX audience to watch their favorite shows as soon as they air, no matter where they are – at home on their TV or on the go.

 

FOX NOW Live on Apple TV.

Up until now, what have viewers been able to watch on FOX NOW?

Before today, FOX NOW offered on-demand full episodes of its primetime shows, including “Empire,” “Gotham,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Family Guy,” “MasterChef Junior” and “Bones,” the day after they aired on TV, but customers had to wait until midnight for new episodes to appear. Now they can watch them live, as they are being broadcast — every day, wherever they are and on hundreds of digital devices. That’s particularly important to fans who don’t want to have plotlines spoiled by social commentary between the broadcast and on-demand windows. 

What’s the reasoning behind the timing of this move?

We’re responding to consumer demand. After the premiere of the phenomenally successful primetime smash “Empire,” FOX began hearing from consumers on Wednesdays at 9 o’clock that, even when they weren’t home, they wanted to be able to stream the series live on FOX NOW and FOX.com. They didn’t want to have to wait until the next day to stream it, which until now has been their only option. As of today, viewers can stream primetime programming live via FOX.com and FOX NOW on virtually every screen — on iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, Apple TV and Google Chromecast.

How, exactly, is this different from existing TV Everywhere products on the market?

All the broadcast networks are doing live streaming in some capacity, but the others are doing it in a limited set of markets. With this launch, FOX will be the only broadcast network to offer live streaming to pay TV customers in all 210 television markets nationwide seven nights a week. And because of FOX’s industry-leading TV Everywhere coverage, 98 percent of pay TV subscribers are able to access the live FOX stream. That translates into about 250 million people in the U.S. having access to the nightly live stream.

I’m sure many people are wondering what FOX NOW Live means for advertisers and affiliates.

For advertisers, it opens up a new pathway to a younger audience that wants to watch live TV on digital devices. It allows us to give Madison Avenue more options for reaching FOX’s highly engaged viewers and to do so across every media market. For affiliates, it means a new revenue stream and promotional opportunities, as we now have the ability to offer dynamically inserted local-market advertising and station branding as part of this live primetime stream – an industry first.

FOX NOW Live on an iPad.

So Fox Networks Group is clearly an early mover in VOD and now in nationwide live streaming of primetime programming. What advantages come with that?

FOX is known for culture-defining programming and big TV events that bring together viewers across demographics. By offering our primetime programming to our viewers wherever and whenever they want it, we hope to provide a TV experience that is of the same quality and caliber as our amazing shows. This new capability for FOX NOW comes as we’re also relaunching new and improved versions of the FOX Sports GO and FXNOW apps. We’re using smart technology to make our programming available on more and more devices, and we hope in doing so to bring the TV Everywhere experience into the future and drive consumer choice in the new TV ecosystem.

How do you see the TV Everywhere space evolving in the future?

Our industry needs to do more to provide premium programming wherever and whenever consumers want it and to make their favorite programs easier to access. We are working diligently to make signing on to these apps easier so we can get people through the gates faster. You can have 98 percent reach, but there’s no value in that if it’s not convenient for viewers to find your programming quickly and conveniently. By creating more choice and flexibility for the consumer and by letting them watch on their schedule wherever they are, we’re working to create an experience for viewers that is better than TV as they’ve always known it.

As President of Digital for Fox Networks Group, Brian Sullivan leads the Digital Consumer Group, a new strategic business unit tasked with developing the company’s TV Everywhere and direct-to-consumer platforms.