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Fox Offers Free Primetime Programs on Web

Fox Entertainment Group is offering free prime-time programming on the web sites of nine of its 24 biggest owned and operated stations, marking the first time ever that local stations will stream network programming on their web sites.

Fox Digital Media has teamed with Toyota to be the exclusive ad sponsor for select episodes of Fox entertainment series from Fox's  20th Century Fox Studios, including returning shows Prison Break and Bones, and older shows such American Dad, The Loop and Stacked.

They are available for free through the new "Fox on Demand" on the station web sites in New York (WNYW), Los Angeles (KTTV), Boston (WFXT), Dallas (KDFW), Washington, DC (WTTG), Tampa Bay (WTVT), Orlando (WOFL), Birmingham (WBRC) and Greensboro (WGHP).  Fox is also in talks with its affiliates to offer them a similar streaming video player.

   The deal is the latest in a series of online moves by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Fox, which earlier this week announced it will sell digital downloads of some of its series on MySpace and other Fox sites, now joins ABC and CBS in streaming free, ad-supported episodes. Fox is alone in streaming those shows on the O&O web sites, rather than on the main Fox homepage.

    The company decided to stream first on the stations’ web sites because it offers the opportunity to target ads locally, says Senior Vice President, Fox Digital Media Matthew Glotzer. Also, the stations can promote the shows throughout the day, even when they are not airing network programming, he said. 

    "The elegance here is not necessarily following in the footsteps of the other national networks with a national strategy out of the gate, but rather to come at this from a bit of a different direction," he said.

    New episodes of Prison Break and Bones will be available the day after they air on TV. Additionally, the stations' sites will feature several episodes from each of those series' first seasons, as well the entire first season of The Loop and a handful of episodes from Stacked and American Dad.

   The deal is enabled by the digital media agreement Fox struck with its stations earlier this year, as well as a video player created by Fox Interactive Media's Stations Group. So far, the Fox stations have offered user-generated content, such as blogs and photos, into their sites through their newly re-branded "MyFox" web sites.

    As Fox rebrands the rest of its 24 O&O stations' web sites, they plan to deploy streaming video players to them as well. Fox is also in talks with its affiliates to offer them the streaming player as well, drawing upon the revenue sharing deal they worked out in March. Fox is also looking to include the streaming video player on its national site if the local sites garner traction.

    The stations' video player allows viewers to play video on their full computer screen or as a smaller window and offers "DVD quality" streaming on the computer - better than the quality might be were the shows streamed on a third-party web site, says Ron Berryman, SVP and GM of Fox Interactive Media's Stations Group.

    "We have to deliver the best video we can to enhance our content partners," he says. "We do not want to give the consumer any kind of a negative experience of the quality of the view," he says.

    While the ABC streaming experiment earlier this year featured several advertisers, Toyota alone will sponsor Fox's streaming shows to promote its Yaris line. The video player will bear Toyota branding, and Prison Break will be accompanied by three, ten-second, non-skippable ads.

Toyota's Corporate Manager, Marketing Communications Kim McCullough said the Toyota spots will not be tailored to the individual markets, but future ads will be. The new deal “makes everyone's favorite Fox shows more accessible whenever and wherever they want to watch them," she said.