The Sun is to enter the world of online football broadcasting with a Sky Sports News-style show, called The Sun FC, which will kick off as the paper's website launches its paywall.
From Thursday the first of the 32 million users who browse the website each month will be greeted by a £2-a-week paywall, part of the paper's new Sun+ digital offering.
For early risers there will be a new "near-live" on-demand sports news show from 6.30am, with the first edition set to air about a week before the start of the Premier League football season. England's top division kicks off on 17 August.
The show, which has its roots in the Sun's transfer and news section Football Confidential, will be streamed seven days a week from the publisher's new £3m studio in Wapping.
"It will be like Sky Sports News but slightly different," said the Sun digital editor, Derek Brown. "It will offer a view of 'the truth behind the stories', if you like."
The morning edition of the programme, which will be available from 6am each day, will be fronted by presenter Samantha Johnson.
Johnson, who also presents The Morning Report on Sky Sports News, will start the day with a roundup of headlines and big stories from Sun writers.
"When we got the rights at the end of January we thought 'We don't just want to put out clips like ESPN, we want to make the goals app much more than that,'" Brown said.
From 4pm presenting duties will be taken over by John Salako, the former England international and TV pundit.
Brown said the length of the daily show could vary depending on the amount of football news, but added that it would not become a loop of stale news.
"You are not going to be watching at 1pm and think it is the same as at 6am," he said.
The programme will form part of a strategy to build the value of content behind the Sun paywall to drive subscriber growth. Analysts have tentatively estimated that it could need more than 300,000 subscribers to break even.
Brown said that a three-pronged Sun+ digital strategy will focus on a Goals app, Sun Digital (access to the website online and via smartphones and tablets), and offering a range of deals to entice new and loyal readers.
The Goals app will leverage the digital Premier League rights parent News UK paid £30m-plus to secure plus, from next year, FA Cup digital rights.
The Sun FC is one element that will be made available through the goals app, to build what Brown says will be an experience a bit like Facebook's timeline.
"When we got the [Premier League] rights in January we didn't just want to put out clips like [former joint rights holder] ESPN," he said. "We don't want people turning up just for match day, almost want it to become the first thing people turn to when they get out of bed."
When News UK, in its former guise as News International, put the Times behind a paywall, web traffic dived about 90%.
"We've had long conversations about this here and what this means," Brown said. "Of that 32 million a month many are just passing traffic that don't hold a huge amount of value to us. They might visit once a month, they might have landed on us and not even know. We accept that traffic is going to go down but [the view on that] depends on what value you put on advertising. None of us here are convinced by that model. The bundle is the key thing here."
He said that the aim was not to turn its back on print readers – the Sun sold a daily average of 2.24m copies in June – and herald the start of some sort of "digital-first" strategy.
"We are not saying 'Now we are digital-first platform'," he said. "One of the key parts of Sun+ is to make sure people who buy the newspaper and are loyal continue to be loyal and are rewarded. We are not anything 'first', it is about customers and readers. A lot of our readers out there are still out there driving vans, cleaning windows, builders ... they may not have an iPad or a tablet on them but I bet most of them have a smartphone."
He said that the third element of the Sun+ strategy, offering deals and rewards, includes three months' free music on Napster for new subscribers and £5 off kids' clothes at BHS, and plans are in the pipeline for a book club via News UK's News Corporation stablemate Harper Collins and perhaps a movie club.
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