Overhead shot of a soccer scrimmage

FOX Sports: Scrimmaging for success across teams and time zones

“Most of us work on about 10 different sports throughout the year. To be able to follow work on all of them through different Slack channels and threads is vital for our team.”

Michael BucklinVice President of Digital Content, FOX Sports

When it’s game time, it’s all hands on deck — or at least, all eyes on the field. That’s especially true for FOX Sports, which covers nearly a dozen sports and hundreds of sporting events worldwide, including the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ in Russia.

With teams on the ground in Moscow and Los Angeles, FOX Sports used Slack to coordinate coverage across continents. Much of the coverage, including Alexi Lalas’s video podcast “State of the Union,” was beamed in directly from Red Square and then compiled by a team of producers in California. Other event coverage — like the live Twitter show “FIFA World Cup Now” — used segments that were first produced in L.A. and then shipped to the International Broadcast Center on the outskirts of Moscow, where they were fed into a live stream that was shot right from Red Square.

Michael Bucklin, vice president of digital content at FOX Sports, oversees content across platforms, including live and recorded audio and video for the website and app, podcasts, and various social media accounts where fans access game updates and additional content. He says Slack channels allowed every producer to share crucial real-time coverage of the FIFA World Cup™, from highlights, bloopers, player news, and notable tweets from influencers to videos of fans celebrating across the globe.

“Most of us work on about 10 different sports throughout the year,” Bucklin notes. “To be able to follow work on all of them through different Slack channels and threads is vital for our team.”

Tracking the play-by-plays in Slack channels

To fully cover the FIFA World Cup™ in real time, FOX Sports relied on a team of about 35 people who were responsible for either content production and operations support. Among them was a team, affectionately known as the Goal Squad,who were brought in specifically to focus on “social listening”: monitoring the thousands of tweets, posts, and other fan commentary throughout the tournament. All of their work — from tracking stats to exchanging video files — happened in Slack.


Fox World Cup photo


When a game got going, FOX Sports’s teams were in the main #world-cup channel sharing clips that others could use throughout the organization’s vast media ecosystem.

When we spoke with him in July, Bucklin anticipated that his team would capture north of 1,000 moments over the five-week FIFA World Cup™ championship, including goals, interviews, and other memorable events. “Whenever one of these moments happens, our teams need to know details — from its context to translation to proper crediting to the location of the video asset itself — so we can properly produce and distribute it,” he says.

Moments after a goal was scored, Bucklin says, someone on the digital media team shared the video clip in Slack. That way, the various groups using the game footage, whether they were responsible for programming the website, sending out mobile alerts, or creating content for Snapchat and Twitter, could adjust the length of the available snippets.

“Slack has a really great file delivery system,” he adds. “I can preview a video in a thread and respond with feedback to it right there in the channel.”

Monitoring fan feedback using custom integrations

Bucklin describes how the team used a simple custom integration to pull data from various social media accounts into Slack channels, where the team collectively monitored what fans, athletes, and influential celebrities were saying about a particular game, as well as the network’s coverage, at any given moment.

“Not only can we potentially take a great tweet from an athlete, then share it and put it on television,” says Bucklin, “if it’s a snap or tweet from a fan, we can respond and perhaps answer questions about where to get updates or what time a game comes on.”

The team wound up producing as many as 130 pieces of content daily, and the performance of each one was tracked closely. But for an easily comparative view, the team set up a Slack channel integrated with CrowdTangle to help track under- and over performing content.

“The [CrowdTangle] custom integration puts feeds of our content performance data automatically into a channel where I can see it and invite management to see it as well,” says Bucklin. “That allows us to focus on content that’s performing well — and an understanding of what’s not working is pretty valuable too.”

Goooaaalll: FOX Sports team collaboration for the win

On a day-to-day basis, Bucklin says, almost all collaboration among different FOX Sports divisions has moved to Slack channels, replacing disorganized texts and emails. “Slack allowed consolidation,” he notes, which helped boost organization and productivity across the board.

Sharing key information and targets with every team member in an organized, searchable fashion also means everyone can stay apprised of the latest happenings and act quickly to keep things moving forward. “Goals are very important,” Bucklin says. “They need to be communicated to everyone.”