Fox Unveiled FN Genius Trivia and it was a Train Wreck

Jason Jones
Aug 14, 2018 · 5 min read

The interactive live trivia space has heated up since the launch of HQ Trivia last October followed by a handful of competitors each with their own unique spin on the space.

  • Hangtime Trivia: Which is taking on a late night comedy vibe with horizontal shows ran by animated cartoons.
  • The Q Trivia: Which is taking on a network model working with brands and publishers.
  • Majority Rules: Which released its own game format with a Family Feud style approach.

It was only a matter of time before one of the big networks got involved. Comcast/NBC made an investment in HQ, but none of the networks had launched a property of their own until Fox made their announcement in an exclusive store with Deadline.

“It will premiere on Sunday’s the Teen Choice Awards on the Fox broadcast network” — Deadline

With linear broadcast promotions and 75k worth of cash prizes on launch day. Fox was planning on making a big splash, but after installing the app it didn’t look promising.

Initial Download Observations

Screenshots from the press release and App Store.

The app appeared to be far from complete everything from app store screenshots with incorrect data to missing in-app information to displaying Euros instead of USD.

The screenshots included in the app store listed a trivia question on one screen and then a screenshot of a view that would appear after the answer was revealed to the audience. The answer is revealed however the answer is incorrect and the correct answer, Brown, from the previous screen, was replaced with Baseball. I don’t think that’s a university however it would have been fun to study at the Baseball University. On top of that, there was Lorem Ipsum filler text throughout the app on every single screen other than the lobby which contained a help screen, FAQ, rules, ect.

For starters this is clearly the sign of an unfinished app, but how did this even get through the Apple App Store review process?

With the apps current state of looking like an unfinished and unpolished product, it did not instill confidence for an upcoming launch that would be promoted live during national broadcasts.

During Game Observations

The first two games of the night went according to plan.

Small audience numbers were surprising considering the substantial push on FOX Network during the Teen Choice awards. At least 2 commercial breaks encouraging people to download the app and play the first game for $25K.

The first game had <2,000, Second and third games had >2,200.

The host was an actor on a new series on FOX. He plugged the new show too much and it became annoying as did his ‘go-to’ comedic lines he relied on when he was nervous or lacking a script.

The prize of $25K x 3 games for the night (only 2 games were won) was considerable and combined with the broadcast, must be disappointing for Fox. The quality of the production was also an issue in the first two games. The broadcast seemed to deteriorate as the show went on, getting grainier and darker. To be fair you probably can’t blame Fox for the video issues as HQ stuffers the same.

Twix as a sponsor couldn’t be happy. There was little in the way of Twix feeling like it was a relevant sponsor. A couple of questions were asked, but they felt forced and weren’t creative or clever.

Live tweets during the game.

The Third Game, Tech Issues & Bots?

In the third game, after Question 5, the game froze for about a minute. But they were able to salvage the broadcast and after flashing a “Technical Difficulties — please stand by” message they came back. The counter showed that there were still 1,500+ people on the app and the last question had 700+ people getting the answer correct.

Technical issues in the third game.

But in Q6, there were less than 100 people in the game and only 65 people answered correctly. The host acknowledged this but went as if there was nothing wrong with the numbers.

It felt like people were gaming the system with bots as many answers had huge numbers of the correct answer and few misses.

On Question 11, with only 11 people left in the game, there was a question that appeared to be easy.

What did Time Magazine rank as the greatest invention of the 20th century?

A) Personal Computer
B) Cell Phone
C) Disposable diapers

All 11 players answered C) and were wrong. So no money went to anyone and the game ended. Users took it to Twitter to call out what seemed to be a bit fishy.

The app pointed people to the Twitter handle @FNGeniusFOX, which was actually incorrect but a troll had seen the mistake and taken the name. When the game crashed, the troll began adding to the confusion and outrage as no one from FOX took ownership of the problem. The silence was deafening.

Between the Host telling us his name multiple times, plugging of the show he was promoting multiple times, referencing the Teen Choice Awards on FOX, and the sponsor Twix, it felt very fragmented and not sure what I was left thinking about.

Thoughts and Observations

Fox can’t be feeling good about this launch having upset its users, giving up valuable primetime on-air ad spots, and hurting relations with brand sponsor Twix who was fronting the 75k cash prize. Launching a new product with the world watching in a genre that has already been plagued with technical issues and is no easy feat. I doubt I could do much better, but here are some observations from Fox’s flop for large media companies or hungry startups looking to break into the space of interactive video.

  • Obviously, you need to have information in the app correct. Fox referencing an incorrect Twitter handle that was hijacked by a troll caused total confusion.
  • Having a social media manager on hand during and after games is crucial for damage control if/when things don’t go according to plan.
  • Growing an audience for a one-off game via TV advertising (commercials) didn’t work as well. User acquisition is harder than ever and traditional forms no longer work. Growth hackers need to think abstract and develop sneaky ways to get in front of an audience. The ones spending the least on ads are the ones that are growing.
  • Focus on the sponsor and find a way to make them relevant. Whether it’s a big name hosting (The Rock for Rampage) or Giving away the product (Pandora), keeping the focus on the brand is important as you want the outtake for the player to be clear.

Well, that’s all I got for my first blog post on Medium. Hopefully more to come soon.

Jason Jones

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A Tech Blogger and dog lover writing about the many things that go wrong with technology.