Last month, Fox Sports laid off the entirety of their digital editorial staff in favor of video content. To some, this might seem like a frugal, 'get-with-the-future' approach. To most, this feels like a 'war on literacy'—something Fox has a talent for.
In a memo last month from one of Fox's many alleged sexual harassers Jamie Horowitz—the now-fired man responsible for haunting your television with a 24-hour intravenous drip of Skip Bayless—Fox announced, "Gone are the days of uploading content to a hub and hoping an audience seeks it out. We will be taking a proactive approach to distributing our content to sports fans on their preferred platforms."
So, instead of uploading content to a hub for people to seek out, they'll now be… uploading content (without written words) to a hub for people to seek out? Seems like a game plan. The only differentiating factor in his statement, perhaps, is his mention of "preferred platforms," which is basically a dig at their audience to say that they're too lazy to read. But maybe this is going somewhere else. What kind of "preferred platforms" was the now-very-fired Horowitz talking about? Surely it's video, right? Right?!
What in the living hell is this?
So instead of recognizing the inherent value in written, fact-based journalism, and setting aside money for an editorial staff from their insane amount of video revenue, Fox decided to speculatively pump what must be millions of dollars into a VR app where you sit in a virtual suite and look at everything but the game? When they said VR was the future, what they meant—certainly—was commenting on some stranger's fake hat choice in a alcohol-less, mini Marriott convention center while the actual content, soccer, is happening somewhere behind a barrage of floating distractions. Surely, this is the preferred platform that Horowitz was talking about.
It's also worth noting that the launch of this ADHD facetrap came in tandem with Fox's long-fraught relationship with soccer: a sport the corporation views as so boring that they need to slap on a soccer-illiterate Gus Johnson to spice things up. Now, here they are, serving up a virtual room filled with everything but soccer? Here's a radical idea: maybe people will want to watch the game when they tune in to watch the game—maybe, while Fox was sleeping, the U.S.'s soccer IQ has developed to the point that they're more soccer literate than the Gus Johnsons of the world and will just enjoy the nuances of the sport. Moreover, if people aren't watching the game, maybe they want to look at a real couch with their real friends on it.
It's truly mind-numbing to try to come up with a more profoundly mundane use of VR.
"But they'll have stats, and you can talk to your friends from far away," you say. This is what having a phone in your hand is for—as opposed to it being strapped to your head.
You can just picture how Fox came up with this, the execs' heads whirring with all of the new-sounding words that they don't understand: "VR," "social media," "user experience," avatar," "Facebook," "app" and then forcing some poor hapless technologically gifted person to sew together one ham-fisted idea after the other. The execs' champagne glasses clink now, but in a couple of months when their venture fails, the developer will be out of a job and the execs' golden parachutes will billow above them, as they laugh safely to the ground.
But who knows? The thing hasn't launched yet—maybe it'll be popular with God-knows-which Fox demographic I might be out of touch with. But in all likelihood, in a couple of months, the small handful of people who downloaded it in the first place will be stuck with a stale app on their phones, playing out an empty virtual room with unused fake people floating about like decapitated ghosts. Meanwhile, there will be—in actual reality—a real empty room devoid of very real writers who were providing content to a time-tested, "preferred platform:" the written word.