Operational Integrity at FOX: Our Q&A with Tubi Media Group’s CEO
Digital transformation is (still) at the top of the executive agenda, particularly for companies in categories where business model disruption is afoot. Sustaining growth and relevance demands finding new sources of revenue, new ways of working, and new operational models.
Fox Corporation is one of the world’s leading producers and distributors of original entertainment, sports, and news content. In 2019, the company broke ground on a state-of-the-art technology and operations center in Tempe, Arizona. The new FOX Media Center signaled a strategic investment in the company’s digital, broadcast, streaming, and distribution capabilities, setting a new bar for operational excellence in the industry and turning the network model on its head.
We sat down with Paul Cheesbrough, Chief Executive Officer of Tubi Media Group, part of the Fox Corporation, to discuss his experience leading this large-scale operational transformation and his modern approach to managing digital operations.
How have the category and your business changed in the last few years?
Creativity, storytelling, and journalism have always been core to our business, and over time, software engineering has become an increasingly important enabler in bringing our products to life for consumers.
No matter what part of the company I’ve been in at FOX, I’ve always found the culture of the business to be innovative and disruptive. We’re often the underdog entering a space, pushing boundaries to better serve the consumer.
What are the tenets of the experience you’re trying to build for your audience? How do you keep viewers coming back?
The consumer is at the center of everything we do. And the consumer, from a media perspective, has never had more choice. If our load time is slow, or if the content isn’t as good compared to a competitor, they’ll quickly move elsewhere.
Like all of our industry, we used to be a company that blasted content out and then looked at the ratings the day after. Now, it’s completely real time. Everything is data-driven and coming back through a live feedback channel. This requires attention to detail. We have to make decisions on the fly depending on consumption spikes, customer feedback, things that are working, and things that aren’t.
This all starts with operational integrity. We’ve put significant energy and effort into building a strong operation as the core of what we deliver to the consumer.
Can you unpack the idea of operational integrity, and talk about the investments you’ve made to deliver a great consumer experience?
In 2019, we were able to ask ourselves, if we were to build this today from scratch, how would an integrated broadcast-cable-digital-consumer operation look? And we did just that with our operational center in Tempe. We invested in facilities, in platforms, and in the displacement of technology debt to make sure we are building on a strong foundation.
Our operational center has become integral to our business—a strategic capability. If you go to most media operations centers you get racks and racks of hardware. Ours is predominantly software-based, built around a very open, flexible data architecture running on the Amazon Web Services network backbone. We’re connected directly into their infrastructure, which reduces the latency for moving video around.
We architected data into the heart of this operation from the beginning, which allows us to be predictive about, and avoid, on-air or streaming issues. We can make decisions on the fly depending on consumption spikes, customer feedback, things that are working, things that aren’t.
What role has PagerDuty played in the business transformation at FOX?
PagerDuty has been essential infrastructure to us. It’s the platform that brings together and instruments very important data. We’ve driven a lot of cost out of the operation through the introduction of automation—and PagerDuty has been a big part of that. It’s the thread that’s common throughout our operation, orchestrating collaboration and integration across teams.
It’d be hard for me to say that we have partnerships that are better than the one with PagerDuty. They’re a curious company—it’s a wonderful attribute to have. The most senior members of your company want to spend time with us to observe and learn, and to see what the product can and can’t do in the wild. And if it can’t do something, then pretty soon down the line it can because of the feedback you’ve taken away.
In 2023 you became the CEO of Tubi Media Group, which inherited its name from the Tubi acquisition. What was the strategic vision behind Tubi and its integration within FOX?
FOX acquired the streaming service Tubi in 2020. Tubi was truly the underdog within the streaming market—scrappy, really trying to challenge the bigger streaming services while trying to establish the advertising video on demand (AVOD) category. The culture and DNA of the business is very engineering-oriented, and we’ve really tried to support, empower, and embrace that culture.
So we built Tubi Media Group as the business unit inside FOX where our digital expertise, our platforms, and our product talent for all of the company reside. It still has its entrepreneurial roots, but it’s become a significant growth engine for the business as a whole.
You mentioned culture—can you talk more about the kinds of talent, skills, and capabilities that are driving the company where it needs to go?
The thing that keeps me awake at night—it feels like we’re close to “zero legacy” now. But if we stand still for two or three years, legacy will creep back in. So how do we always keep one eye looking around the corner? How can we do things more effectively, faster? To do all of this, you have to have strong talent on the ground.
So we spend a lot of time thinking about the work environment, how teams operate, and how we support interaction across teams—and really making sure that the work that our engineers are doing is cutting edge and interesting.
One story was the 2023 Super Bowl, which we streamed out of the Tempe facility. We broke records in the U.S. We’re still the only broadcaster to have streamed the Super Bowl in 4K at that scale and volume. We broke latency records. And those are really tough engineering challenges—great, complex problems that attract the best engineers to work on them.
You’ve invested in facilities, in technology, in partners, and in people. How do you balance driving efficiency at scale with innovation and growth?
We’re a technology and digital business within FOX now that’s entirely focused on growth. We’re able to scale the business faster and further because our cost structure on the core operation is in a really fit and healthy place, and it’s in a fit and healthy place because of those investments we’ve made over the years.
Central to our strategy, we’ve put our team’s capabilities, facilities, and platforms in place to power and support this level of operational integrity. You’d be surprised how many of the issues go away once you put that foundation in place.
Building on this position of operational integrity has allowed us to really focus on the needle movers on revenue. It’s given us the time and air space to do the more glossy shiny stuff. Our velocity has improved; our creativity has improved. The team thinks about improvements to existing products and new products to launch. We’re continuing to raise the bar on world-class services we deliver to our customers.