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Fox customizes Net video news

In an effort to grab Net market share from its competitors, Fox News Online launches a customized streaming video newscast service.

In an effort to grab Net market share from its network competitors, Fox News Online today launched a customized streaming video newscast service.

Using the service, "you can choose what news you want and watch it when you want to, instead of going home and turning on the six o'clock news and having them force feed you the news," Nicholas Ascheim, editorial director for Fox News Online, said today.

"At this point, Internet news is as much as part of the package as TV and print, and to not have it means you're not serious about news," Ascheim said. He added that Fox's goal is to offer content that complements its TV coverage.

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As for its strategy in adding the service, "It's important to make choices easy for viewers, but without eliminating options for them," he said, noting that viewers still can click around to read news content on the site, use the search engine, or read a selection of wire stories.

With the explosive popularity of the Net in the past two years and the vast expansion of cable, television networks have found themselves having to compete in different arenas with many new players. The TV networks enter the game with already-established brand names and popular content and personalities built in, which gives them a leg up over some of their Web-only content competitors.

To differentiate themselves, the TV networks have tried different approaches to news and other content along with multimedia bells and whistles to draw traffic and the ad dollars that come with it.

CNN, for example, offers customized news, using technology from Oracle. It also offers live audio broadcasts via RealNetworks' RealAudio or Microsoft's NetShow, in conjunction with AudioNet.

CBS tried a different approach: The network has its own site, and its affiliate stations also have sites connected to it. Within those individual station sites are links to CBS News content, so users can get local news and weather on the front page of their news site, then click through to get broader coverage. Also, upon visiting the site, users can enter their zip code and get localized content including news as well as other TV programming information.

MSNBC--the joint venture between NBC and Microsoft--also offers customized news, local coverage, and audio.

Fox News Online decided to offer the customized video service because "we put a lot of emphasis on video from the beginning, and our viewers love it--a lot," Ascheim said.

To see a customized newscast on Fox News Online, users "check" boxes on the video page to select the stories they want to view from within six categories: news, business, sports, health, sci-tech, and weather.

The newscast is played using the RealPlayer streaming tool from RealNetworks. It connects all the stories selected by the user, without the user having to return to the index page, Fox said. According to the site, the streaming video is available to users with 28.8-kbps or faster connections. The news is updated throughout the day.