Fox Aims to Put Some Soul Into OTT

After most of 21st Century Fox was sold to The Walt Disney Co. in 2019, Fox Television Stations executives realized that if they wanted to be in the over-the-top space, they needed to make something happen. So FTS CEO Jack Abernethy decided to serve one of Fox’s core communities by launching a targeted streaming network.

Fox Soul is seeking shows that "are speaking from our soul to your soul," such as celebrity talk show 'One on One with Keyshia Cole." 

Fox Soul is seeking shows that "are speaking from our soul to your soul," such as celebrity talk show 'One on One with Keyshia Cole." 

After hosting several “listening sessions” to discover what people might be seeking content-wise, “it became obvious that the constituency that we already served best, African Americans, was the constituency we needed to keep focusing on,” said Stephen Brown, executive VP of programming and development, Fox Television Stations.

FTS then developed the idea for Fox Soul, which aims to give the African-American audience a place where it can gather as a community to have an authentic conversation.

Fox Soul is a pure OTT play: It’s available online at FoxSoul.TV, as an app on the iOS and Android platforms, as well as on connected TVs such as Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and soon Philo and Xumo TV. There are no plans to turn the service into a linear network; Fox Soul’s executives and hosts prefer the unregulated freedom of an OTT offering.

Fox Soul is advertising supported and free to watch.

Driven by Interactivity

The key differentiator for Fox Soul is that it’s live and interactive for four hours a night, five nights a week. It’s already looking to expand that lineup with an additional hour.

“The mission is to have a place where you feel safe to come and talk outside of your own home,” Fox Soul head of programming James DuBose said. “We are speaking from our soul to your soul and vice versa. And because we are live and interactive, we’re able to tackle topics without watering them down.”

Fox Soul’s programming lineup, which officially premiered Jan. 13 after launching in a soft beta test in October, falls under four themes. Starting at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET, Out Loud with Claudia Jordan offers an hour of female empowerment, followed by an hour of inspiration with On the 7 with Dr. Sean, hosted by pastor Dr. Sean McMillan, who takes on topics of faith.

At 8 p.m. PT/11 p.m. ET, Fox Sports’s Mike Hill and record producer Donny Harrell lead conversations that black men might be having in a barbershop on The Mike and Donny Show. And at 9 p.m. PT/12 a.m. ET, Los Angeles radio DJ Tammi Mac introduces the community to up-and-coming talent on The Tammi Mac Late Show, celebrating black culture through music, comedy, performance and the spoken word.

“We’re starting a network where we want to uplift and show black excellence,” Mac said. “To me, black excellence is the people in the community that you don’t necessarily get to see but who are constantly making a difference. It’s people who have successful small businesses or people who are entertainers but you don’t know them because they aren’t Beyoncé. That’s the black excellence that I want to portray.”

Viewers can call in or leave a comment or a question on the app and the hosts can react in real time on the air. All four shows are shot on a single soundstage in Los Angeles, with producers running in to change the sets between shows.

Fox Soul programming chief James DuBose

Fox Soul programming chief James DuBose

“I love every bit of being live,” Mac said, who hosts a drive-time radio program on KJLH (which stands for kindness, joy, love and happiness) Los Angeles from 3 to 7 p.m. PT each weekday. “You never know what’s going to happen and that means that the show is never, ever the same. It will always be different, always be new and there’s always something to look forward to.”

Beyond the four — and soon to be five — hours of live primetime on Fox Soul, there are also pre-taped shows airing at other times, such as Fox’s syndicated talk program, Dish Nation, which shows radio DJ teams from different markets chatting about the pop-culture news of the day.

Fox Soul also programs locally produced shows such as Street Soldiers with Lisa Evers, a hip-hop focused program that has aired on WNYW New York since 2016; Later with Leon, hosted by Leon Rogers from WFLD Chicago; The Q, hosted by Quincy Harris from WTXF Philadelphia; and Isiah Factor: Uncensored, hosted by Isiah Carey from KRIV Houston.

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.