21CF Chats: Jeff Hughes on Fox’s digital innovations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup

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Fox Networks Group’s President of the Digital Consumer Group on digital experiences for viewers, digital vs. linear broadcast

The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia is underway, which means Fox Networks Group has unveiled a variety of digital innovations to improve the experience for the viewer wherever they are, whenever they want to tune in. I recently spoke with Jeff Hughes, FNG’s President of the Digital Consumer Group, about the digital experience Fox is offering viewers of this World Cup.

This is the first time Fox has the FIFA Men’s World Cup right in the U.S. How are we making this content available to viewers digitally?
We are very excited about all the new ways people can watch the World Cup digitally. The full World Cup games, our Fox soccer studio programming and documentary miniseries “Phenoms” will all be available, for the first time live and on-demand after the fact, through a broad range of digital platforms, including FOX Sports, FOX Sports GO, FOX NOW, FOXSports.com and more. The time zone difference between the U.S. and Russia will drive fans to digital experiences to catch the games live.

Through what sites or apps can viewers find FOX World Cup content?
We have consumers covered on all platforms. Games and studio shows will be available on-demand on the FOX Sports app for mobile and tablet devices, FOX Sports GO on mobile, tablet and living room devices. On the web, this programming will be available on FOXSports.com. This programming will also be available in our FOX NOW experience on all mobile, tablet and living room devices. A custom FOX Sports FIFA World Cup app has been developed for the Hisense TV platform and, finally, VR experiences will be available via the FOX Sports VR app on mobile, Gear and Daydream platforms.

Highlights, studio show clips and custom digital features will be available on FOX Sports app on mobile and tablet devices and FOXSports.com. FOX Sports GO and FOX NOW will have highlights available on-demand. Custom digital World Cup programming will be available on the FOX Sports app and FOXSports.com.

Finally, we’ll be distributing a mix of this content across social platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, which will feature an exclusive daily live show hosted by Rachel Bonnetta.

How is the digital presentation of World Cup content different from FOX Sports’ previous experiences doing the same for other big events?
There are a lot of differences, always building on what we have done before and always trying to make the viewing experience more immersive for the fans and simple for the viewers:

  • More and high-quality live streams than ever before (bonus feeds): Five bonus feeds for every match, amounting to nearly 17 hours of added coverage and over 1,000 hours for the tournament, including “Team Channels,” which bring team fans closer to the pitch. With better quality than ever before, this will be the first time the World Cup will stream at 60fps.
  • In-depth content hubs: Created a FIFA World Cup Hub within existing platforms to provide custom content, features, and data within FOXSports.com and FOX Sports app. The hubs have thousands of pages/screens of content, far beyond anything we’ve done previously.
  • Exclusive video alerts: Instant goal highlights delivered right to your mobile device and match highlights delivered within 15 minutes of the final whistle.
  • Custom match highlights: “90’ in 90””is another first, combining highlights and other media for a richly produced, near-real-time features distributed across multiple distribution channels – the full game in 90 seconds.
  • Unique FIFA World CupHighlights Machine: Allows users to create, watch and share the highlights they want. With video covering every 2018 match as well as 300 matches from the tournament’s rich history, the Highlights Machine lets users focus in on years, teams, players, matches, even play types – in whatever combination they want. This is the first time that we have used machine learning and AI to find highlights dynamically, and it is really cool. These highlights can be shared socially and we think there will be a lot of people using this and sharing it with their friends.
  • On-demand events: For the first time, we will be making full matches available on-demand after they air, which is a priority for our customers due to volume and times of matches.
  • A first ever, live Twitter show
  • Unique partnerships with Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram for distribution
  • 4K/HDR: The FOX Sports Go Hisense app will offer the only live streaming 4K/HDR feed of World Cup matches.
  • Custom FOX NOW Collection: A first for a sports event, a custom collection for the World Cup in FOX NOW apps featuring all the live games and programs, as well as on-demand games and highlights.
  • Unprecedented VR coverage: More matches, more extras. The FOX Sports VR app will have three VR camera angles for every match and a director’s cut, VOD highlights, and “all-access” 360-degree features.
  • Match Center: Through the FOX Sports app and via FOXSports.com, access to a complete Match Center, providing match and player stats, short-form videos, commentary, rosters, formations, venue info, standings, and more.

What will people watching via the Fox apps and/or website be able to see that won’t be available on linear broadcast of the matches?
The goal of the Digital Consumer Group is to provide a “Better than TV” digital experience to viewers and fans – adding significant value beyond the broadcast of the game. The features described above paint a picture of how fans can not only watch the games wherever they are, but also dive deeper and get closer to the action.

How do you view the relationship between the linear broadcast and digital streams of the World Cup?
The digital executions outlined above enable 21CF to deliver the FIFA World Cup to fans whenever and wherever they want, greatly expanding the reach of broadcast alone. Digital uniquely delivers bonus coverage and a host of video and data features, which deepen engagement for those users who want to immerse themselves in the event. We also know that most people will watch the linear broadcast when they can, and so we make it clear where and how to do that and invite them back when they want to have a deeper viewing experience.

In case you missed it, here’s our conversation with John Strong and Stu Holden, FOX Sports’ lead voices for the 2018 World Cup.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup began June 14, 2018, and ends with the final in Moscow on July 15, 2018. All games will be live on FOX, FS1 and FOX Sports GO.