August 10, 2012
By Kaylee Hultgren
“You’ll never walk alone.” It’s the anthem song for Liverpool, an English soccer team with some of the most faithful and fervent fans in the Barclay’s Premier League. Fox Sports Media Group recently announced a brand new documentary franchise dubbed “Being,” which will kick off September 16 with 6 hour-long episodes on its first documentary profile: the Liverpool Football Club. The series aims to be an all-access look at iconic people and institutions in today’s world of sports. CableFAX spoke with Eric Shanks, co-president and COO, FOX Sports Media Group, about the new franchise and Fox Sports’ soccer strategy overall.
What is the purpose of the BEING franchise?
Fox Sports has spent years enhancing the fan experience… getting them as close to the action as possible and entertaining them along the way. BEING will take the fan where other sports documentaries haven't really gone before. We are going to strive to tell stories from a first person point-of-view as much as possible. The purpose of BEING is to marry a truly intimate level of storytelling with what’s happening right now in the sports world.
Why introduce it now?
The Liverpool Football Club and Fenway Sports presented us with an opportunity we couldn't refuse. The spirit of their brave cooperation and unprecedented access inspired us to tell their story from the inside out. With the explosion of soccer here in the US we thought the time was perfect.
Does this signify a move into sports documentaries, as some of your competitors (ESPN) and others (HBO) have done?
It signifies that we’re interested in constantly innovating and trying new things in an effort to entertain and inform sports fans.
While you can’t yet discuss future subjects of the BEING franchise, can you comment on which sports will be featured? Or whether you’ll move beyond soccer?
The spirit of BEING opens itself to any sport or subject. We just want to be able to tell intriguing stories and taking the fan where they have never been before. Everything is on the table.
Can you indicate how many different BEING series Fox plans to air?
No, we really can’t, though I anticipate that in a few years we’ll look back and the BEING franchise will have a significant body of work attached to it.
Will they all be stateside, or is international a possibility?
There is no geo-centric rule here. We want to tell the best stories possible.
Was a BEING franchise always the plan, or was the original focus just a one-off series on Liverpool?
BEING is the logical next step in a Fox Sports original programming plan that has come together over the past few years. It was not conceived in conjunction with the Liverpool project.
When we spoke at a UFC event in NYC, you said that soccer is very “strategic” for Fox right now. Can you elaborate further? What else do you have planned regarding soccer coverage?
It's simple. It's strategic because we are the only media company with a channel completely dedicated to soccer. So we need to use all of our assets to create value for Fox Soccer. We’ve made significant investments in world class soccer over the last few years, most notably with UEFA Champions League, Barclay’s Premier League and the World Cup beginning in 2015. We want to be stewards of soccer as we lead up to our World Cup coverage.
We’ve tried to increase exposure for the properties we currently have rights to by putting games on big FOX over-the-air, both live and encore airings, using NFL games as a big-audience tent poles. In addition to FOX Soccer, we’ve had Champions League semifinals on FX, which is carried in almost 100 million homes, and FOX has carried the Champions League Final three straight years. We’re also re-launching FOX Soccer Report later this summer, FOX Soccer’s nightly soccer newscast, with a new cast, new set and an entirely new look.