Fox Sports takes a distributed approach to sponsor video

Fox Sports brings with it broad distribution in its own right, but in a sign of the times it’s looking beyond its own properties in distributing sponsor video.

The publisher is rolling out a new program called “Fox Sports Engage,” which will open up a multiplatform distribution pipeline for sponsored integrations and custom videos it creates on behalf of advertisers. In addition to Fox Sports’ owned-and-operated properties like and the Fox Sports Engage blogging network (formerly Yardbarker), Fox Sports will seed videos across its social channels on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and even on TV via Fox Sports 1.

The move comes out of feedback Fox Sports has received from advertisers it has done social video campaigns with in the past few months, including Nationwide (tied to the network’s NASCAR coverage) and Fiat (tied to its Women’s World Cup coverage). Advertisers are now placing more value on the distribution of the videos and integrations they’ve paid for than just on the content itself, according to Pete Vlastelica, evp of digital at Fox Sports.

It’s why Fox Sports will guarantee views on campaigns bought via Engage. Why is the company comfortable doing this? “One of the things we’ve learned is that it’s hard to predict how well a given content program is going to work on one platform, but it’s relatively easy to predict across all platforms,” said Vlastelica.

The move is indicative of where the media business is today, where scale requirements have gotten bigger than ever and modern publications like Buzzfeed and Mashable look beyond their own sites for distribution.

“Being aggressive to emerging distribution platforms has been key to Mashable’s growth from the beginning,” said Adam Ostrow, chief strategy officer of Mashable. “In the early days, for example, we were obsessed with figuring out how to get content on the front page of Digg. We were one of the first media brands to adopt Twitter and Facebook, and today it’s about embracing mobile social apps like Snapchat, Meerkat and Periscope.”

Ostrow credits this approach to helping Mashable grow to more than 24 million followers across social platforms. It’s also helped create “new opportunities for us to extend the reach of our branded content programs to the places where our audience is increasingly spending their time,” he said.

Though coming from traditional media, Fox Sports is one of the bigger sports media brands on the Web. The company’s network of sites under the Fox Sports Digital-Sporting News Media umbrella hit 50 million unique visitors in June, with 18.9 million unique video viewers, according to comScore. Its Fox Sports Engage Network has more than 500 independent sports blogs, which collectively reached 25.4 million unique visitors in June.

Comparatively, top-place ESPN had 74.3 million uniques though only scored 10.4 million unique video viewers, according to comScore. Other competitors Bleacher Report-Turner Sports Network and Yahoo Sports-NBC Sports Network also bested Fox Sports in terms of monthly uniques (53.6 million and 52.5 million, respectively), but not in video viewership (3.3 million and 9.6 million).

Socially, Fox Sports is also strong. On YouTube, it has 300,000 subscribers and is averaging 17 million views per month; on Facebook, it has 17 million likes and is averaging 60 million views per month; and on Instagram it has 400,000 followers. Twitter, where Fox Sports has 4 million followers and averages more than 2 million retweets per month, is becoming another huge distribution opportunity for video. Fox Sports has started to upload videos natively to Twitter and in some cases is seeing more views there than what the same video does on Facebook, said Vlastelica.

In such a scenario, a distributed strategy makes sense.

Engage will be available on sponsorships and integrations Fox Sports sells for its socially-driven Web series such as “@TheBuzzer,” as well as custom-built videos and series. Once a campaign has begun, Fox Sports will also help advertisers optimize “mid-stream” depending on how the videos are performing on the individual platforms.

“This isn’t the first time a publisher has realized they need audience [across platforms] — that’s BuzzFeed’s entire business model,” said Vlastelica. What Fox Sports is banking on is that this is the beginning of a trend, and publishers that can demonstrate a strong distribution pipeline outside of its own walls will be favored by advertisers in the long run.

Images via Fox Sports

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