Features on elements of culture and life in the host country are often an important part of World Cup or Olympic broadcasts, and Fox Sports will be turning to some well-respected experts to help produce them for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia; the people over at the National Geographic Society, which produces the eponymous magazine as well as various TV channels and programs, plus digital and social efforts. As John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reports, the National Geographic Society will send photographers and video producers to the event, and their content will be displayed on Fox’s TV, digital and social media platforms alongside native Fox features, with their branding used onscreen for their features. 2018 World Cup executive producer David Neal told Ourand the move should be a huge boost for Fox’s coverage, and it may lead to more partnerships with National Geographic down the road:

“Our idea is to make the host country one of our characters,” said David Neal, executive producer for Fox Sports’ coverage of the FIFA World Cup. “National Geographic will come in and help us bring Russia to life. It’s essential for us to give viewers a sense of the place and feel like it’s a destination.”

The World Cup will mark the first collaboration between Fox Sports and National Geographic Partners, a for-profit company that the National Geographic Society and 21st Century Fox set up last fall. “I can promise you that it won’t be the last,” said Neal, who produced nine Olympics for NBC.

…“This is unprecedented,” Neal said. “National Geographic is the gold standard in their space. The fact that we’re under the same umbrella is unreal.”

Fox has its own impressive features group, of course, which was a key part of their industry-leading 10 wins at the Sports Emmys this year. Neal said that group will be working alongside the National Geographic people, with more of a focus on the sports aspects of the tournament:

Neal and Fox Sports President Eric Shanks visited National Geographic’s Washington, D.C., offices last week for a daylong brainstorming session focused on how the two groups can work together during the World Cup. Neal said they don’t have many specifics about what to expect — “the logistics phase comes next,” he said. But Neal plans to have National Geographic journalists work alongside Fox Sports’ features group, which is run by Jennifer Pransky, Fox Sports’ coordinating producer for the features division.

The idea is to let Pransky’s group focus on the sport and the athletes and National Geographic’s group focus on the Russian culture and World Cup fans through maps, photos and videos.

“The differences between Moscow and Sochi are stark,” Neal said. “National Geographic is expert at portraying the diversity of that culture. We’re not asking them to shoot sports.”

It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out, but this is definitely a partnership with some potential. The long-standing corporate links between the sides (in addition to the National Geographic Partners launch, Fox helped National Geographic launch its TV channels internationally way back in 1997) make it a logical fit, and while Fox Sports’ in-house groups have shown they can do great features in their own right, having the talented people from National Geographic producing feature content as well may only help. We’ll see how that working relationship goes and how the Fox content meshes with the National Geographic content, but there certainly are some reasons to think this could work well.

[Sports Business Journal]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously worked at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.

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