Fox Sports Upfront Pushes Big Numbers for Football

Mike Mulvihill Erin Andrews Fox Sports Upfront
Fox reserach head Mike Mulvihill with Erin Andrews at the Fox Sports upfront

Football is a big deal at Fox and at its virtual upfront presentation Friday, Fox Sports, led by Eric Shanks, wants to make sure media buyers and advertisers know how important the NFL is.

The presentation used the theme “The Year of the Fan” to celebrate that spectators will be filling stadiums again, bringing additional life to games and telecasts. Football will also be used to boost Fox’s digital assets including free, ad supported streaming service Tubi.

Tubi will have a Fox Sports on Tubi vertical this summer as well as an NFL on Tubi Channel in the fall. Sports content will be 70% engaging long-form, and instead of user generated stuff, 90% will originate from Fox Sports or feature Fox Sports talent, said Fox sportscaster Erin Andrews.

Also Read: Fox News Selling Ads in New Streaming Weather Channel in Upfront

But most importantly the games draw viewers. Fox executive VP, head of strategy and analytics Mike Mulvihill noted that 80 of the top 100 rated telecasts were NFL games last season and Fox between Sunday afternoon and Thursday night controled about 40% of those regular season ratings points.

Last season regular season NFL football games generated ad revenue of $2.68 billion, up 5% despite COVID, according to Standard Media Index. Fox’s Sunday afternoon games and Thursday Night Football generated $1.1 billion in ad revenue, up 8.8%.

Fox recently signed an extension with the NFL for 11 more seasons of the National Football Conference package including the Sunday late afternoon America’s Game of the Week, the highest rated window on television for 12 straight years, Mulvihill said. Fox is giving up Thursday Night Football to Amazon after the 2021 season.

The big ratings are likely to continue, Mulvihill explained, because Fox’s NFC schedule includes two teams that draw the highest ratings--the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers 21 times next season. The NFC also now has Tom Brady and the champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The NFL this year gave Fox eight of the 10 games it wanted most, and it will be able to “flex” games in the second half of the season to ensure the best matchup for America’s Game of the Week.

In addition to popular teams, the NFC has many big, economically powerful markets including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco and Seattle. The 15 NFC markets generate $2 trillion more economic activity than the 16 AFC markets in CBS, according to Mulvihill, giving markets a good reason to buy their NFL commercials from Fox.

Fox has been airing NFL football since 1994. Back then, Shanks was a broadcast associate running errands for John Madden and Pat Summerall. Now, he said Fox is producing a documentary on Madden and the impact he had on football, broadcasting and video games.

For college football, Fox said it is planning a major marketing blitz to relaunch its Big Noon Saturday package.

Fox’s college football will kick off with Ohio State playing Minnesota on Thursday Sept. 2, a night with no NFL games on tap. The season will likely climax with the traditional rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan Thanksgiving weekend, which last year was Fox’s highest rated college football game.

Fox also has baseball, with the World Series returning. Fox pitched three other big baseball events: the annual All-Star Game, a Sept. 11 game between the New York Mets and the New York Yankees on the 20th anniversary of the terror attack on the Twin Towers, and the Field of Dreams game, rescheduled from last year to be played in an Iowa cornfield between the first place Chicago White Sox and the Yankees in August. Fox had former White Sox slugger turned baseball analyst Franks Thomas standing in a field during the presentation.

Fox also highlighted the WWE Wrestling and soccer on its schedule, noting that in 2022 it has the World Cup, which will be played in the fall for the first time. Some World Cup matches will be played before college football games and NFL games.

During the presentation, Fox Gave away prizes including trips to Wrestlemania, The World Series and an NFL game in the winners’ choice of stadium.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.