Fox Sports Ohio Adds Sizzle Via Phizzle for Reds Fans

By Ken Kerschbaumer

For Fox Sports Ohio and Cincinnati Reds fans, the true beginning of spring is right around the corner: Opening Day. Marked by festivities including a parade, “Opening Day in Cincinnati is like none other,” says Tom Farmer, Fox Sports Ohio VP and executive producer. This season, Fox Sports Ohio is promising an increase in HD games from 72 to 100, complemented by a new location for pre-game coverage and new sizzle courtesy of Phizzle.

What is Phizzle? It’s a relatively new text-messaging service that makes it easier than ever for sports networks to bond with fans. “It allows viewers and fans to take part in polls and text in messaging and comments,” says Farmer. “We haven’t had a better way to get the fans involved in the broadcast, and we also haven’t tapped its potential.”

For example, Reds fans could text the words score reds and receive an update with the score and inning. Or they can vote for an MVP or the play of the game and watch as results are compiled on TV in real time.

The use of social-networking tools doesn’t end there for Fox Sports Ohio. The network has a page on Facebook and MySpace to keep fans up to date on the latest happenings in Ohio sports and let users know of opportunities to get on-camera and ask Fox Sports Ohio analysts questions during post-game coverage via “fan cam.”

Also, Reds announcer Jim Day is expected to use Twitter to send out short text messages (or “tweets”) to Twitter users before and after the game. “He’s addicted to it,” says Farmer, “and it really allows for a more personal connection with fans.”

Lyon Video of Columbus, OH, will once again provide remote production units for Fox Sports Ohio. “We have a great relationship with them,” Farmer says, “and they supply us and other Fox Sports regional networks when they come to town.”

Producing an additional 30 games in HD is consuming the majority of any budgets that could be used for other on-air enhancements, but Farmer credits the Cincinnati Reds owners, led of Bob Castellini, for helping improve this year’s Reds coverage.

“Reds ownership has become integral to what we are doing, and the team built us a new pregame location in left field that will be the center of attention for fans,” says Farmer. “The space is out among the fans and in a covered area. Plus, it has a great view of the ballpark.”

He says one of the great things about Reds fans is they are loyal. Even if the team is playing poorly, Nielsen ratings still hover in the 3, 4, or 5 range, more than acceptable for a regional sports network.

“Every season, hope springs eternal, but I can’t say enough about our relationship with the team,” says Farmer. “It’s helped us expand our programming and air classic Reds games from January through March. We’re just looking forward to a new pre-game set, a winning team, and getting started.”

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