If you’re in the media or entertainment business, you need to have some exposure to the live event space.
Disney and NBCUniversal have their theme parks, of course, and others like Netflix have created their own live activations (Stranger Things, The Bridgerton Ball, etc). Still others have taken it a step further by trying out their own fan conventions, hoping super-fans will pony up for access to talent, merchandise and other offers. Consider WarnerMedia’s DC Fandome, or Bravo’s BravoCon.
Can a cable news channel make it work too? Fox News thinks so.
In 2019, Fox News’ streaming service Fox Nation launched an awards show for regular people called The Patriot Awards, honoring people in categories like the Most Valuable Patriot Award, the Heroism Award, and the Service to Veterans Award.
On Thursday, it will host the 4th iteration of the awards show. And while it will still stream on Fox Nation (and eventually run on Fox News), the company is turning up the dial on the events surrounding it, turning it into a de facto fan convention for Fox News fanatics.
Fox Nation president Jason Klarman says they have sold nearly 6,000 tickets to the event, which will be held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. And for the first time they are offering upsells, giving fans a chance to buy tickets to live broadcasts of shows hosted by Tucker Carlson, Greg Gutfeld, The Five and others.
“Most of them all sold out immediately,” Klarman says. Outside the theater where the awards will be held, Fox is planning book signings, meet and greets, podcast recordings and merchandise sales (including Fox News “ugly Christmas sweaters”), with talent like Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade signing his latest book, and Fox Nation host (and country music star) John Rich hosting a whiskey tasting, as well as photo ops based on series like its upcoming Yellowstone docuseries (narrated by Kevin Costner), or its primetime set.
“I think it’s part of this larger brand strategy that [Fox News CEO] Suzanne [Scott] wanted us to pursue, which is how to build the Fox News brand beyond the genre of news, and I believe it has transcended the genre of news,” Klarman says. “And this is a physical manifestation of that right? And you have to see it. You know, it’s amazing just to see how excited these folks are to just be near, to take a picture with, to sign a book with, attend a show, and just be in the company of their favorite Fox News personalities.”
It’s a strategy that is also appealing to advertisers and sponsors, who are a critical piece of any live event puzzle, and often look to be incorporated into the spectacle itself. BravoCon, for example, held its last event last month, and had 19 sponsors, with some, like Bud Light Seltzer and Lay’s, integrating their products into the event itself.
Fox Nation’s Patriot Awards has lined up the restaurant chain Golden Corral, the RV and camping brand Camping World and the non-profit Tunnels to Towers as sponsors, with plans to incorporate them into the event itself.
“It’s about brand association. It’s about being associated with an event like the Patriot Awards and showing these consumers both at the event and then of course, eventually, the show will be on Fox News on a Sunday night,” Klarman says. “But I think being associated with this kind of uplifting, positive event that celebrates people who normally wouldn’t be celebrated is I think something that these brands are excited to be adjacent to. And let’s be honest, as with all Fox News things, it’s gonna deliver a big audience.”
The award show itself will be emceed by Fox & Friends Weekend host Pete Hegseth (he also hosted the first 3 iterations), with Laura Ingraham, the Fox & Friends team and The Five hosts among the presenters. Country music singer Michael Ray will also perform.
And the winners, once again, will be people who are just as likely to be regular Fox News viewers.
“These folks never went out seeking recognition but they deserve to be celebrated and that is the mission of the Patriot Awards,” Hegseth says. “I am so honored to have hosted the event for four consecutive years, it gets bigger and better each time around and is the only award show that matters.”
“There are very few brands that can turn out thousands of people and generate millions of dollars in the world of events. And I think Fox News is one of a handful of them,” Klarman says. “And so I think that speaks to the strength of the brand, both in linear television, in the SVOD space. And in the dot com space, right? It’s just another way to express the brand events are as 21st century as SVOD, we went as 18th century as a Fox News book brand. And as relevant to the world as these live events.”