The cable companies may be hard at work planning their transition to online video with TV Everywhere, but Fox News has another method of bridging the gap between television and online — developing talent and shows in real time.
Every week day, over eight hours of programming are streamed online from Strategy Room, Fox News' web video "network." The online-only program operates out of a small corner of News Corp.'s New York office, and may not be getting insane traffic, but it's been a proving ground for Fox talent. And it appears to be working.
It's the kind of formula that positions, as AdWeek notes in a feature this week, guests like Mick Foley (AKA WWF's Mankind) against Liz Peek, who writes a column for the women's community site wowOwow.
I've been on the show, and it's sort of a free for all, with on the go topic discussion and viewer feedback. Each show has a hour long segment with a host, a subject area and a row of guests. (Right before I went on last year there was a hotel bombing in India, so we spent most of the first hour chatting about that and then shifted to Paris Hilton movies.)
Low overhead and participants eager to practice their sound bites means that the show appears to run itself. Say what you will about FOX News, the News Corp. channel is willing to experiment with content — as proven by its many breakout (and cancelled) shows. Online, there is much more room for testing out new formats.
According to AdWeek:
The audience for Strategy Room isn't huge, but it is consistent. In September the network averaged 28,000 viewers per day, peaking at 38,000. Viewership spikes around midday, tailing off near 4 p.m. "There have been two surprising things for me," says Misenti. "The number of people that watch these things for more than 15 minutes is impressive. The other thing we've found that is very interesting is, people do want to interact with the program. More than you'd think."
Even more than simply the content of the eight hour programming produced on Strategy Room, the effort is helping FOX to figure out how to produce and react to real-time online content. Other networks are getting more traffic than FOX online. The site is gaining ground, but still trails CNN's 8 million users. Meanwhile MSNBC and Yahoo pull in over 30 million users.
In contrast, MTV NEWS is simply optimizing its content for the web by cutting videos and stories into shorter bites that can easily be shared online and seeing huge results. During the third quarter of 2009, the section drew 3.5 million uniques and nearly 10 million streams--increases of 40% and 88%, since the same time last year, according to MediaWeek.
That said, Strategy Room is allowing Fox to develop new talent — the network's young hosts come on for an hour, or read the news to pratice their craft. And most importantly, it's helping the network deal with the problems and opportunities afforded by streaming live shows.
The cable companies are working on bringing terrestrial television to the web with TV Everywhere, but it's projects like this that will help develop video content for the web.
Image: Strategy Room