Fox Sports, a media group that presumably covers sports, will eliminate about 20 writing and editing positions in order to focus on video, reports Bloomberg. The reason? Actual sports reporting is hard.
The owner of Fox News and the Fox broadcast network has decided that paying writers to cover sporting events, pen columns or grade teams’ NBA draft moves is best left to ESPN and other news-focused sports sites. Fox is opting to divert those resources into producing online video that complements on-air shows, can be packaged into advertising sales across the web and TV, and has the potential to go viral on social media.
The memo to Fox Sports’ employees regarding the shift in priorities which was obtained by Bloomberg was penned by network exec Jamie Horowitz. Horowitz has been a major proponent of ditching the act of actual news reporting in favor of doing more hot-take shows on the Fox Sports networks.
This move away from online written content is an especially big blow to motorsport fans, as Fox Sports is the group that absorbed beloved motorsport network Speedvision years ago. They’ve been slowly hiding Speedvision’s remnants further and further back in the closet ever since.
Fox Sports’ website had a suite of motorsport writers who still gave a damn, went to races and gave the alienated ex-Speedvision audience a small but solid fraction of the content we wanted. Sadly, we’re left with whatever they get the rights to broadcast or otherwise put on video on Fox Sports’ networks now, as motorsport writers Samuel Reiman, Tom Jensen and John Dagys have all confirmed that they were cut from the site.
However, Fox Sports’ cynical move to replace written reports with viral videos and filmed hot takes also points to an unfortunate truth about on-the-ground sports reporting: it gets expensive. Bloomberg notes:
Opinion shows are cheaper to produce than sending reporters into the field, a bonus for large media conglomerates looking to trim costs. News and highlights shows have also struggled to retain viewers who can get the latest scores and trade rumors on their phones or via social media.
Formerly, it was Fox Sports’ website I would sometimes browse for race results, key quotes and bits I might have missed at home. Now they’re shifting to content that’s near-impossible to peruse discreetly on an office toilet without bringing in headphones with you.
In place of the writers who have been axed, about 20 or so positions will be opened up on Fox Sports’ video production team, Bloomberg notes. Those displaced by this round of cuts are being encouraged to apply for the new roles. That being said, video is a completely different set of skills and not everyone who’s comfortable writing for the internet wants to have anything to do with video.
The only question left is whether it will actually work. So far, Fox is having mixed results with their hot-take approach on cable TV, gaining some daytime and primetime viewers but still attracting less than half the viewers of ESPN’s flagship network on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 combined, per the Nielsen statistics cited by Bloomberg.
But an unexpected success with one Facebook video hitting 20 million views is acting as a sort of template, with Fox Sports vowing to take its online video content onto different widely-used platforms instead of waiting for people to type in foxsports.com directly. That’s at least a start.
Either way, it’s hard to imagine that motorsport fans will still have the level of coverage we’ve been enjoying on Fox Sports’ online pages. Every time Fox cuts or consolidates its motorsports coverage into a bigger project, motorsport fans have gotten the short end of the stick: fewer series, fewer shows and less coverage.