With the countdown clock officially under 100 days and promotion now turning up the volume, FOX Sports went full throttle with its World Cup campaign last week, not only unveiling its original theme song “Where Angels Fear to Tread,” but also camped at SXSW throughout the weekend, launched a “100 Most Memorable FIFA World Cup Moments” countdown and launched World Cup promo, tickets, bugs/watermarks and snipes across its properties.
Despite the lack of a US team at the tournament, FOX Sports will feature all 64 matches live, including an unprecedented 38 matches on broadcast television and 26 on FS1 starting June 14. Cynopsis Sports spokes with David Neal, Executive Producer of FIFA World Cup on FOX and Vice President of Production for FOX Sports, about the company’s strategy and what fans can expect this summer.
Neal on the record amount World Cup programming on FOX: This is something that was decided years ago and that is indicative of the company-wide support we have for the World Cup. It is the biggest event in the history of FOX Sports and when rights were acquired, the mandate is to make this a world-class event, pull out all the stops and give it every resource and platform possible.
On FOX’s approach to soccer: When we first started doing soccer, I had a lengthy discussion with David Hill and Eric Shanks about the fact that this is a global event, and something unique in the FOX Sports portfolio and we wanted to make sure it has a FOX characteristic to it. That starts with storytelling and having commentators who have informed opinions. If there is a great show to emulate for us, it is FOX NFL Sunday as I think that crew does a great job and the ratings reflect it every year. To me that is the prototypical FOX studio show: great information with larger-than-life personalities who entertainment and inform you.
On the US not qualifying: It was certainly disappointing and there is no question that we would rather have the US there. But after that happened, we gave ourselves about 24 hours to mourn and the very next day, Eric Shanks called a staff meeting and told us that life goes on, our plans are unabated, and that this would represent the kind of challenge that our producers were more than ready for. It gives more life to the premise that there are 32 teams, with stories full of protagonists and antagonists, with the 33rd team being the host nation itself. There is not lack of interest these days in Russia and the fact that we can go there and bring the enormity of that country to life is a great opportunity. We can now focus equally on all 32 teams and the draw could not have been better.
On digital strategy: I think this could be a game-changer. We will be contributing daily material to them. While linear is still the flagship, we want to create touchpoints and make sure that FOX Sports GO is robust, help out partners in Twitter and Snapchat, and get out there and get into as many consumable venues as possible because we want people to easily access what’s going on because we have some great stories to tell.
On talent plans: The on-air talent that we’ve assembled and will be announcing fairly soon, I think, is an unbelievable collection of soccer players from around the world that will really impress fans. The names we are pulling together is unparalleled ever in television history. For all the great work that others have done, when you see the lineup that we’ve put together and their pedigree, I can’t wait to get on the air with these guys.