NEW YORK Fox News is looking to open a second front in the cable news war, launching an initiative called Fox Fusion that will offer sponsors a streamlined system for buying inventory on the flagship channel, newcomer Fox Business News, The Wall Street Journal and News Corp.'s various digital properties.
Essentially, Fox Fusion will allow clients to purchase time on the TV side of the business, while opening new opportunities to appear on non-linear platforms, like the 126-year-old financial newspaper and WSJ.com, which boasts a paid subscriber base of 1 million.
Beginning next week, Paul Rittenberg, svp of advertising sales for Fox News Channel and FBN, will begin presenting the Fox Fusion pitch to media agencies and clients, outlining how his team is now equipped to go beyond selling 30-second spots on linear TV.
"It's early in the process," Rittenberg said. "But we're ready to start presenting clients with an overview of all the opportunities that are going to be available to them."
While the first order of business will be to increase buys on Fox News' proprietary Web sites, the proposition of being able to steer clients to the Dow Jones properties is particularly alluring to Rittenberg. "Streaming video on the Journal's site could be a game changer," Rittenberg said. "The one thing Fox News can do that no one can argue about is good video. And WSJ.com really doesn't do that."
Synergy should also help drive traffic at the Fox News sites, which have always lagged far behind rivals CNN.com and MSNBC.com. Per Nielsen Online, FoxNews.com averages around 8.5 million unique visitors per month, while CNN.com drew 37 million in February. WSJ.com could send as many as 15 million uniques to the Fox News sites, based on its numbers from last month.
How the Fox Fusion approach will pan out with regard to the Fox Business properties and the Journal is still uncertain. News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch is looking to tap into the Journal's talent pool in order to
fortify FBN's news-gathering capabilities, but a pre-existing deal between the paper and CNBC gives the NBC Universal net the exclusive rights to the Journal's editorial staff through 2012.
That said, there might be a loophole. "There is a carve-out for non-business news and there is a carve-out for breaking news," explained FBN evp Kevin Magee. Speaking at a recent media conference, Magee noted that Journal columnist Peggy Noonan has made a few appearances on the business network.
"The sky's the limit with the Journal brand and the way the Fox News stuff lines up so well with their editorial page," said one buyer. "They could see exponential increases in their ad sales numbers with the cross-sell strategy."
While the Fox Fusion play will not incorporate the brands under the Fox Interactive Media umbrella -- a digital stronghold that includes MySpace, FoxSports.com and AmericanIdol.com -- any segment in the news division is fair game, including mobile.
For all the opportunities made manifest by the association with Dow Jones, Rittenberg still keeps traditional TV top of mind. "We have a real good shot at going after some of that $1.5 billion that is spent trying to reach people while they're brushing their teeth," he said, referring to
the pricey morning-news daypart. "If we could get another 100,000 25-54 viewers coming into Fox & Friends, that would still be a great boon for us."