Fox Sports’ digital strategy has undergone a major shift in recent weeks just ahead of the company’s negotiation with the UFC over its broadcast rights.
Fox Sports currently has a deal for the UFC to be featured four times a year on the Fox broadcast network and several more times on FS1 and FS2, which includes live fight events, pre- and post-fight coverage, UFC Tonight, The Ultimate Fighter, and more. That deal is up for renewal in 2018, which means the promotion could re-up with Fox or entertain competing offers.
Ever since Fox and the UFC partnered several years ago, FoxSports.com has provided heavy coverage of the UFC, which included both written and video content. That changed last week when Jamie Horowitz, the head of Fox Sports’ digital content laid off a slew of writers in favor of shifting to an almost exclusive video strategy.
“Today, we are announcing a plan to put the editorial strength and technical infrastructure of Fox Sports fully behind digital video. We will be shifting our resources and business model away from written content and instead focus on our fans’ growing appetite for premium video across all platforms,” Horowitz wrote in a memo to the staffers he laid off last week.
The change wasn’t isolated to UFC coverage, however, it was an overall shift of digital strategy on the web and mobile across all sports.
That wasn’t the only major change, however.
On Monday, Fox Sports president Eric Shanks cut Horowitz loose and temporarily took over his duties while the company searches for a replacement.
Horowitz was fired less than a week after Fox began investigating claims of sexual harassment in the workplace of its sports division, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.
“Everyone at FOX Sports, no matter what role we play, or what business, function or show we contribute to — should act with respect and adhere to professional conduct at all times. These values are non-negotiable,” Shanks wrote in an email to employees announcing Horowitz’s dismissal.
It wasn’t immediately clear how or if all of the recent change at Fox Sports will affect negotiations between Fox and the UFC, but changes have been prevalent across most media properties in recent times. There is, however, the potential to use any sort of change as leverage in negotiations.