Fox Corporation wants Madison Avenue to understand that Fox News doesn’t always mean hard-news content.
As the company’s biggest generator of operating profit expands into weather news and lifestyle shows, its ad-tech division is offering new tools aimed at helping advertisers find the exact types of digital content they want to support. Fox Corp. on Wednesday unveiled a proprietary technology it calls Atlas to a group of advertisers meeting in Los Angeles, with a mission to help them match commercials with specific types of digital programming.
“We have so many new lifestyle elements — Fox Weather, Fox Business Prime and on digital,” Jeff Collins, executive vice president of advertising sales for Fox News Media, says in an interview. “Having a technology like this we can take to marketers allows them to align their brand with the right context at scale.”
Media companies of all stripes are rushing to accommodate a growing array of advertisers who are buying via programmatic means, or with software that uses algorithms to place commercials alongside content aimed at reaching narrower bands of consumer types. On Tuesday, NBCUniversal held an advertisers presentation in New York that burnished some of its growing abilities in these areas. Disney held a similar event in recent weeks. All the media conglomerates are focusing more heavily on how they can harness consumer data to deliver advertising not only to large groups of consumers, but also large groups of people with better defined characteristics, such as interest in buying a car or looking for pet products.
Atlas uses artificial intelligence and on-screen visual detection to extract data that can be used to build advanced contextual segments that target specific concepts and entities at any point in time during a piece of video content. Most tools of this nature look at program transcripts, says Collins. But the Fox system can examine “over 60,000 characters per hour as opposed to normal tools that detect about 2,000.” The new technology, he adds, “is very granular.” The company can even use it to analyze the so-called “B-roll” of images often used in news segments while an anchor or interviewee speaks on screen.
Fox News continues to generate headlines for its conservative-leaning primetime opinion shows, and two of those hosts, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, have faced boycotts from national advertisers even as the company backs their programming. All the while, however, Fox News has launched or experimented with programming that veers further afield than national news and politics. Fox Weather, an ad-supported vehicle that is available via mobile app and digital networks, is showing up during some weekend hours on Fox News’ traditional cable outlets. The primetime schedule of Fox Business Network, once keyed in to political discussions like its sibling Fox News, now favors reality programming and documentary series that have been led by such figures as Mike Rowe and John Rich.
The company is eager to keep advertisers aligned with the content they view as most suitable for their ad messages, says Collins. “We cover a lot of different topics in a short period of time, unlike, say, entertainment or drama or sitcoms,” he says. “We could go from lifestyle to sports to politics to breaking news, all of these different genres and channels, within a 20-minute period.”
Two tools, Fox Navigator and Fox Shield, will use artificial intelligence to steer commercials to appropriate content, says Collins. The technology is rolling out first at Fox News Media, he says, but could be used over time at the company’s other divisions, which also include Fox Sports and Fox Broadcasting. The technology could be used, for example, to align consumer-products advertisers with a Fox Weather segment that reports on the prevalence of cold and flu, or keep a Fox Business advertiser from being placed in coverage of its own corporate efforts. Fox Shield is being offered to clients who commit to advertisers in Fox News Media digital video.
Fox unveils the new technology as it works to spur new ad buying across its portfolio of media assets. In the past, Fox Sports and Fox News Media held separate meetings with advertisers and only got a nod at the company’s annual May upfront presentation, which was largely focused on broadcast TV. In 2022, however, Fox Corp. intends to discuss all the assets under its corporate umbrella.