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FOX Spotlights Derek Jeter, Dallas Cowboys & College Football at Upfront

“We didn’t cancel. We didn’t move out of upfront week.”

Derek Futterman



On Monday afternoon, FOX held its annual Upfront event at the Manhattan Center to showcase its growing portfolio of sports, entertainment and news content. The event was standing-room only, and included a surprise appearance from new Major League Baseball analyst Derek Jeter. As the headliner for this year’s event, Jeter stood alongside NFL analyst Michael Strahan and expressed his excitement about joining the FOX Sports team.

“I love the sport,” Jeter said. “I’ve been part of Major League Baseball for 30 years, whether it was as a player, owner or executive. I want that to continue. Then you watch the FOX Sports Team [and] they have a blast. When they reached out and asked me to be a part of it, I couldn’t wait to do it.”

Jeter most recently served as chief executive officer of the Miami Marlins, a role he worked in for four years where he helped make key business decisions to grow the team and foster a connection with the local community. Additionally, Jeter launched The Players’ Tribune in 2014 and helped amplify the voices of professional athletes and connect them with fans, an early foray into the “new media” movement permeating sports media today.
Shortly thereafter, Jeter was joined on stage by his former New York Yankees teammate and current MLB analyst on ESPN and FOX, Álex Rodríguez. Strahan asked about his excitement in adding Jeter to the deep lineup of analysts.

“I played with Derek for almost 15 years,” Rodríguez said of Jeter. “He brings his five-championship pedigree to FOX. I think this October is going to be incredible.”

FOX Sports also highlighted its prime NFL package,  America’s Game of the Week. It will be the home of must-see matchups, including a clash between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving and a Christmas Day battle between the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles. The network welcomed a new primary broadcast team of Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen into the fold last year, and reported an average Super Bowl LVII viewership of 115.1 million households – making it the most-watched television program in American history.

The 2023 NFL regular season is the first of a new, 10-year media rights deal, and FOX highlighted that it will broadcast a total of nine Dallas Cowboys games over the eighteen weeks of play.

“Cowboys games are the most powerful hours of content in television every single year,” NFL on FOX sideline reporter Erin Andrews told the audience.

Rob Gronkowski, who began to make regular appearances with the NFL on FOX throughout the regular season and the playoffs, spoke to the crowd about the importance of commercials following a presentation where the network touted the size of its audience and viewership numbers. In fact, FOX reported a total reach of more than 225 million people and an accumulated 347 billion minutes of content watched across its platforms.

“I can always be myself no matter what the situation is, and you know this is my kind of crowd because I love commercials,” Gronkowski said. “I think everyone in this room has called my agent just a few times.”

Gronkowski, of course, received notoriety for his live “Kick of Destiny” commercial with FanDuel, which promised to give its bettors a share of $10 million in bonus bets if he made a field goal kick. Unfortunately, he missed the kick and was chided for it by FOX Corporation’s President of Advertising, Sales, Marketing and Brand Partnerships, Marianne Gambelli.

“How did you miss that kick at the Super Bowl last year?,” questioned Gambelli. “Come on – seriously, you cost me money.”

Gambelli mentioned the vision of FOX Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch of creating a company focusing on live sports, premium entertainment and news. She subtly addressed Netflix – which chose to cancel its in-person upfront presentation and opted for a fully virtual experience instead – along with Paramount Global which is not holding an upfront event altogether.

“We didn’t cancel. We didn’t move out of upfront week,” Gambelli said. “We’re here for you.”

Much of the event was centered around Tubi, an ad-supported streaming service and over-the-top content provider (OTT) that experienced a 44% growth in viewership year over year. The platform delivered during Super Bowl LVII, amassing over 1 billion views on TikTok, 4.2 million video views minus TikTok and generated 6.8 billion potential impressions. 

“Tubi is the No. 1 AVOD in the US, and they’re just getting started,” said FOX Sports host Charissa Thompson. .We’ve just heard about the connections Tubi builds with its users. Connection with audiences is what FOX is all about.”

Podcasts produced by FOX Sports, Outkick, FOX Entertainment and FOX News Media were also in the spotlight. The catalog  averages 30 million monthly downloads in the United States and contains over 100 titles – including Undisputed, Hot Mic and Flippin’ Bats. According to measurements from Podtrac, FOX Audio Network ranks 10th in unique podcast listeners.

At the start of the event, Strahan appeared alongside celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay where there was no shortage of explicit language as attendees eagerly anticipated announcements and showcases of what is to come. FOX unveiled a variety of new content in its entertainment division; however, it has yet to release its schedule, which it will reportedly do on June 6. Yet there were two broadcast dates to be announced – both in college football.

Andrews revealed that FOX will broadcast Deion Sanders’ debut as head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes in the team’s matchup against the TCU Horned Frogs on Saturday, Sep. 2. Additionally, FOX will bring viewers the traditional college football clash between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines on Saturday, Nov. 25. Kickoff times for these matchups have not yet been revealed, but both are likely to be part of Big Noon Saturday, which is the top window across all of college football with ratings that continue to rise.

Amid the ongoing acquisition of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE) and Endeavor Group Holdings, Inc., no mention of WWE Friday Night Smackdown was made at Monday’s event. The current media rights deal between FOX and the WWE expires after 2024, and there have reportedly been no conversations regarding an extension. Additionally, the WWE was not included in the network’s slate of new programming this fall, some of which includes a new music guessing game show, the return of Kitchen Nightmares and a celebrity holiday “bricktacular” on Lego Masters.

The sports portion of the event also included an appearance from Carli Lloyd, an analyst for the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023. Lloyd was a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team and played a pivotal role in the team winning two FIFA Women’s World Cup championships in 2015 and 2019. She recently worked with FOX Sports as a studio analyst on soccer coverage, including the international FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 tournament.

“The growth of women’s soccer has been amazing, largely due in part to what we did in 2015 and 2019, and with the coverage and the support of FOX,” Lloyd said. “America loves a winning team and [we] captured, in my opinion, two of the greatest World Cups that have been won. It was truly amazing. Let’s see if they can do a three-peat.”

Over the course of the 55-minute presentation, there were multiple occurrences where the crowd did not seem into it, much to the chagrin of Andrews who threatened that they would not get to drink at the bar afterwards. As Andrews concluded the event, FOX Sports analysts Michael Strahan, Rob Gronkowski, Álex Rodríguez and Derek Jeter received the loudest ovation of the day when they began tossing autographed baseballs and footballs to the crowd, capping off a presentation with few announcements about new programming. There is seemingly more to come amid the Writers Guild of America strike, uncertainty with the WWE and hints of an increased move into the digital space. Nonetheless, FOX looks to build off of a record year of viewership and continued growth in the digital sector as it gears up for Super Bowl LIX and the prime time debut of impending NFL on FOX analyst Tom Brady.

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Give Me Less College GameDay, More Game

“If you cut out all of Desmond Howard’s and Kirk Herbstreit’s fake laughter, you probably only have 90 minutes of content stretched out to twice that length.”

Demetri Ravanos



The fate of Pat McAfee, as it relates to College GameDay, is uncertain. McAfee has his pride and almost certainly didn’t enjoy being nitpicked by fans for every little thing last season. The show does not absolutely have to have him, but I do think he is more of a net positive than negative for the show. Plus, as I have written before, the network put an awful lot of effort into building rapport between him and Nick Saban last year. It’s hard to imagine ESPN doesn’t find a way to ensure they are working together this season.

McAfee’s drama is what has fans and industry types speculating on the future of College GameDay right now, but there’s something else I have been thinking about lately. Let’s give McAfee a break. Lord knows he has spent enough time as the focus of everyone’s College GameDay criticisms for the last two years.

I want to know how much longer the show intends to stay at three hours. That’s too much pregame show. If you cut out all of Desmond Howard’s and Kirk Herbstreit’s fake laughter, you probably only have 90 minutes of content stretched out to twice that length.

College football is one of my favorite things in the world. It’s an easy thing to say when Bama is your alma matter, but I don’t just watch the Crimson Tide. I watch EVERYTHING on a Saturday and I still don’t think I get enough.

So I have a radical two-part proposal. In the morning, I need less GameDay and more games. I think the average fan would be just fine with a one-hour pregame show, but I don’t expect ESPN to cut a valuable property down that severely. Instead, let’s settle on a two-hour show. The party can still start at 9 am, just stop at 11 instead of noon.

For that last hour? Start an East Coast game an hour earlier. It shouldn’t be hard for the network that controls all of the SEC and ACC inventory. Just be fair about it. Make sure all of the home teams are in the Eastern time zone and none of the visitors are from the West Coast or Rocky Mountains.

Think of the list of teams that gives you access to: Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee from the SEC, the entire ACC outside of the three new additions, and Cincinnati, West Virginia and UCF in the Big 12. 

Even if ESPN wanted to accommodate playoff contenders like Georgia and Tennessee, there’s still a rich inventory of games they could offer at 11 am. Syracuse vs. Georgia Tech will probably be a top 25 matchup, but it is Power Four conference football. Plus, those are schools that should be happy to be on TV at all, so if you are offering them a spotlight time slot on ESPN, who are they to complain? You can swap those names for just about anyone in the ACC or Big 12 and it still works.

There’s a big difference between star power and mass appeal. McAfee and Saban have star power. Football has mass appeal. GameDay cannot deliver the numbers live football can.

On top of that reality, there’s the fact that it’s a decided advantage ESPN has over it’s top competitor. FOX may have the most valuable league in college sports, but they have spent years branding their coverage around the noon hour. Big Noon Kickoff, Big Noon Saturday. That network could not make the same move to 11 am kickoffs without spending huge money on a new marketing campaign. 

Now, let’s talk about part two of this idea. Take Rece Davis, Saban and Howard and give me a meaningful, insightful recap show after the final game of the night on ESPN comes to an end. That, I think, would have even more value to fans than GameDay.

The NFL is and always will be king, but there is a very large population that isn’t ready to jump into fantasy advice the second we wake up on Sunday. Pro games don’t kick off until 1 pm on the East Coast. Why can’t we keep the college conversation going until like 10 am?

College Football Final is fine, but it isn’t at all dynamic. Think of it this way, that replay that’s looped on ESPNU Sunday mornings, if you’re just flipping around, are you more likely to stop if you see Dan Mullen offering an opinion or Nick Saban?

Ultimately, I don’t expect the decision makers at ESPN will consider my idea. Maybe they will, but they’ll dismiss it. It’s always easier to stick with business as usual, and to be fair, the current way of doing things has been very profitable for them, so who the hell am I, right?

However, this is sort of a continuation of the piece I wrote last week about how the network is approaching negotiations with Stephen A. Smith. If you’re building a media company for the future, you have to focus on getting more meaningful games on TV more often. They are the only things that truly move the needle. Football will always be more valuable than football talk.

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Seller to Seller: Sales Meeting

That passion can get you meetings, it can get you sales, it can get you referrals and it can make you rich.



Graphic for a Seller to Seller feature

C’mon in everyone. Hope your week is off to a great start and you are excited for this week’s sales meeting. Chances are, you’ve already taken advantage of our topic today, which is technology. Some of you probably took out your phone today, looked at the weather forecast to figure out what to wear, or maybe you pulled up the Starbucks app and ordered your morning coffee, which you then paid for with Apple pay.

I still marvel every time I am watching my home cable system, through my phone, with a beautifully clear picture. I am old enough to remember my family having a small television in our kitchen with rabbit ears and sometimes you would have to smack the side of it to hope the picture got better. Now, I can whip out my phone, pull up anything I want in the universe to watch and see it clearly, even on an airplane.

Technology is great. Except for when it comes to sales.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are things about technology that have helped those of us in sales greatly. No more recording the ad on a reel and driving it over to the other station or ad agency that needs it. Just get it in your email and send it on over, or you can even text it over.

The problem is, like a lot of things when it comes to electronic forms of communication, too much gets lost when you are not face-to-face, and the worst part is the person on the other end can’t tell at all if you are passionate about what it is that you are selling. And that has been a huge negative when it comes to trying to communicate with people through email and text or by sliding into their DMs.

The biggest challenge most sellers face is setting appointments with new prospects. We used to call it cold calling but somehow a lot of places let the ‘calling’ part slip away and it became a game of how many emails and LinkedIn messages you could send in a day. And as we all know, the chance you have of someone getting back to you about a first-time meeting through one of those channels is slim. So, why waste the time?

Some would argue that people do not want to be cold called any longer and they would prefer you reach out to them electronically. Of course, that is because it’s easier for them to ignore you or say no to the meeting without actually talking to you. Which, when you think about it, is the exact opposite of what we as sellers want. We want to be in front of them.

So, this is where it gets challenging, but also where we separate the good sellers and the great sellers, or more importantly, the ones who make ok money and the ones who make big money. It is clearly much, much harder today to get that yes to that first meeting. So, we have to work that much harder to get it. And if you want to be successful in this industry, you have to be putting yourself in positions to be in front of people as often as possible.

Whether it is a networking group, Chamber of Commerce event, stopping into businesses, going to games and events or any other way you can be in front of a group of people, if you aren’t doing these sorts of things on a regular basis, you are missing out on a ton of new relationship opportunities.

If you have determined that you are going to meet your financial goals by emailing and sending LinkedIn messages all day, it is going to be a short career for you, and you might want to start looking up new ways to season your Ramen noodles. This is a people business and not many people stop by the studio or office to say hello and ask if anyone is in that can sell them some advertising.

The biggest part of this is the passion with which you sell your product. I believe that you have to have that passion to really make it big in the sports media sales business, and let’s face it, that is why most of us are in the business in the first place. We love it. Many of us eat, sleep and breathe sports. That passion comes out when you talk about what you do and how you can help a local business with the tools and resources you have at your disposal using sports radio as the catalyst. That passion can get you meetings, it can get you sales, it can get you referrals and it can make you rich.

Let people see it. Make a promise to yourself that you’re going to do x number of things every month to increase your time in front of the business community in your area. That is where you will make new connections.

Sales managers, I would encourage you to ask your team weekly in one-on-ones about this time and figure out who is putting in the work to really go out and make new relationships and who is doing the equivalent of ‘sitting by the fax machine waiting for orders.’

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Suzyn Waldman and WFAN Had a Lot to Prove 37 Years Ago

When Suzyn Waldman became the first voice ever heard on WFAN on July 1st, 1987, there weren’t too many people who thought that the radio station would have sustainability.

Avatar photo



Photo of New York Yankees broadcaster Suzyn Waldman
Screengrab: Newsday TV on YouTube

On July 1st, 1987, Suzyn Waldman was about to be the first voice heard on WFAN in New York, the first all-sports radio station ever.  As she settled in to do her first update, a moment that is played back every year when WFAN celebrates its birthday, Waldman could not help but look over on the other side of the glass into another studio and see people holding hands and crying.

It was the staff of WHN, the radio station that WFAN was replacing at 1050 on the AM dial.

“I’ll never forget this as long as I live,” said Waldman who has been in the Yankees radio booth since 2005. 

“I looked through the glass and all of a sudden it dawned on me that when I opened my mouth, they would cease to exist and it really hit me just by doing that.  People were crying and that picture is something that has stayed with me forever.”

Next Monday, WFAN turns 37 years old, and it all started with these words that resonated with Waldman as she drove by Yankee Stadium on her way to work that day.  The old Yankee Stadium had a message board on both sides of “The House That Ruth Built” and that day the message would become part of WFAN history.

“The sign on the message board says, ‘Vintage Guidry’”, said Waldman as she delivered the first words ever heard on WFAN.   “I think I remember what I was wearing…a white blouse with a black skirt.”

But, unfortunately, that’s not all that Waldman remembers about that day.  Her broadcasting career featured some rocky moments early on and it started with what she heard seconds after that first update.

“What I heard through the other side of the glass was get that smart-ass bitch with the Boston accent off my air in afternoon drive,” recalls Waldman.

That first horrible experience did not deter Waldman who would go on to become a pioneer for women in sports broadcasting and a resume that would land her in the Radio Hall of Fame.  There were those at WFAN who tried to move Waldman to overnights with the hope that she would quit.

She wasn’t about to quit.  Instead, she built a career doing things that many of the male employees didn’t want to do.  She covered teams like the Yankees, Knicks and Devils and with that she made a little history.

“What I had to do for that was create my own job which was the beat reporter,” said Waldman. “I was the one who did that.  I took assignments that the guys didn’t want to do.  I did not have an easy time.  I was not going to be defeated because some man thought I was stupid because I was female.”

While there were those who tried to take down Waldman and ruin her career, she did have people in her corner including her family and Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

“The Boss” was initially tough on Waldman when she covered the Yankees but quickly grew into a big fan of hers.

Waldman isn’t so sure she would have enjoyed the career that she’s had without the support from Steinbrenner.

“My brother says I would have because I would have found a way,” said Waldman.  “I believed in what I was doing, and I was the one that was going to maybe make it safer for young girls to believe that they could do this or have some kind of career in sports.  George, except for my family, is the most important person in my life.”

In their early days, WFAN went through some growing pains.

They brought in a lot of on-air people from outside of New York and it really wasn’t until WFAN took over the 660 signal from WNBC on the AM dial that the station became a success.  By transforming from Sports Radio 1050 WFAN into Sports Radio 66 WFAN, the all-sports station assumed the iconic “Imus in the Morning” show from WNBC.  The station also created “Mike and the Mad Dog”, the most successful sports radio show in history, in afternoon drive and the rest, as they say, is history.

Waldman knew that WFAN could be a success before it started, but it had to be done the right way.

“Being the sports nut that I am and knowing that there were so many teams in New York,” said Waldman.  “What I did know was it was not going to work if they had national people.  Nobody in New York gives a damn about Nebraska football.”

It was during those early days doing updates at WFAN when Waldman would meet her longtime Yankees radio partner John Sterling.  One of the original hosts that WFAN had hired was legendary Cleveland sports talk host Pete Franklin to do afternoon drive.  But, Franklin’s arrival in New York was delayed because he had suffered a heart attack.

A number of people were brought into fill-in while Franklin recovered and one of them was Sterling, who retired from the Yankees radio booth earlier this season.

“I was John’s update person when he did a week at WFAN in 1987,” said Waldman.  “That’s how I met him.  We hit it off immediately.  I talk to him all the time and he’s very happy.”  

And now, as WFAN is set to turn 37 years old, Waldman is happy that the radio station continues to thrive even though the sports talk format may sound a bit different than it did in the early years.

“I’m not the demographic anymore,” said Waldman.  “It should change.  The times are very different.  I’m really glad I got to be at FAN when we were building something and I’m really proud of that.  Things change and the world changes and I have no problem with that.  It’s somebody else’s turn.”

When Suzyn Waldman became the first voice ever heard on WFAN on July 1st, 1987, there weren’t too many people who thought that the radio station would have sustainability.  There were also people who didn’t think that Suzyn Waldman should be on the air.

WFAN and Suzyn proved a lot of people wrong.

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