The “studio” is an open room with a table and a couple cameras at the end of a long hallway on the Foxnews.com floor. The “control room” is essentially a person sitting at an audio board. Amid the wires and audio equipment is an XBOX, where guests from Shepard Smith to Geraldine Ferraro have hit the sticks for a round of Guitar Hero.
TVNewser visited The Strategy Room today, located on the 14th floor of the News Corp. building, home to Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network. The Foxnews.com program streams nine hours a day non-stop, even staying “on air” while anchors and guests switch between hours.
“It’s rough by design. It’s not TV, it’s a different platform,” EP of Fox News Digital Mike Straka tells TVNewser.
Whatever it is, it’s working. According to VP of Fox News Digital Jeff Misenti, The Strategy Room averages more than 250,000 streams a day, while all of the Foxnews.com streams get more than one million a day.
“It creates buzz and energy and its really fun,” he says of having the program originate on the floor.
So what will viewers of The Strategy Room see when they tune in? Fox News anchors and correspondents host the program, usually for an hour each, and are joined by everyone from political pundits seen on the FNC air to comedians like Colin Quinn to, um, Michael Lohan. Today, Joe the Plummer was on during the 9amET hour.
Then there’s the moments that develop simply out of having more time and being on the Web. Like Rick Leventhal ragging on Phil Keating for his copious sweating after he finished a report. Or Julie Banderas bringing her puppy Sasha during anchoring duties. Or the Web hit video of Shep playing Guitar Hero (see it here). “You’re not going to see that anywhere else,” says Straka.
For Misenti, it’s part of a larger push on Foxnews.com. “We definitely see that people do want to engage with each other,” he says. As part of the site’s evolution, there can now be up to 12 separate streaming feeds, including The Strategy Room. The player can be the location for FNC/FBN prime time promotion within the flash player, and comments from viewers are added in real time.
So what does The Strategy Room have planned for tomorrow night? And will it still be there when the Election ends?
The Strategy Room will run as usual from 9amET to 6pmET tomorrow, and then continue outside in a makeshift studio that was being constructed this afternoon outside the FNC HQ.
Brian Wilson and Martha MacCallum anchor until the race is called, and are joined by a rotating group of guests.
But the changes are not just for The Strategy Room. Misenti showed us what the Foxnews.com site will look like tomorrow, featuring the first foray into dynamic data. Maps and state-by-state analysis will be shown in real time for visitors to the Web page.
“We’re expecting record traffic for tomorrow,” says Misenti.
After tomorrow night, The Strategy Room will continue, but there is no set timeline for its continued presence.
Misenti and Straka hinted that The Strategy Room will continue in some form, at least through the end of November, and Misenti says, “maybe through the end of the year.” It may change format to move beyond just politics.
FNC contributor Bob Beckel is a frequent Strategy Room guest, and appeared on the program today. He thinks the program would be successful if it stuck around. “There’s more strategy involved in governing then there is in politics,” he says. “I think it’s got longer legs than that, I really do.”
Beckel was one of the original Strategy Room participants, when it was located in an FBN studio during primary nights. “I was a little skeptical at first,” he tells us, but now he sees the power of the show. “We have educated a whole generation of internet users on the intricacies of politics because you don’t have to talk in soundbites.”
He says he gets as many emails after appearances on the Web show as he does after an FNC appearance.
Another guest on the show today was Margaret Hoover, who, upon finishing her hour, began watching the next. She noted how “balanced,” the last hour had been, with a mix of Republicans and Democrats.
The excitement of Beckel and Hoover over the chance to be a part of The Strategy Room is a sentiment seen throughout the organization. “I’ve been at Fox News for 14 years, and had more fun in the last nine months than in the last 10 years,” said Straka. “The entire company is engaged. I’ve never seen a more concerted effort by everybody.”