Inside the Fox Upfront: Tom Brady, the F-Word and Jamie Foxx in the Flesh

Michael Strahan, employee of The Walt Disney Company, logged more minutes than anyone during the Fox upfront on Monday afternoon. But the Fox NFL Sunday analyst wasn’t exactly the headliner. That honor went to his incoming colleague, Tom Brady.

Brady’s official addition to the Fox Sports family was teased throughout the hour-and-a-half pitch for advertisers — “investors,” as Strahan called them — before he finally took the stage for a funny bit that pitted his social media mantra “LFG” against Fox star Gordon Ramsay’s unrivaled love for the f-word. Gordon implored the network and the advertising community to let Brady be himself and say “fuck” on air when he starts calling football games in the fall. And if anybody can afford to pay FCC fines, it’s Brady.

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The host platform of the coming Super Bowl is always particularly giddy to remind the media-buying community of that fact during upfronts. That Fox should get the seven-time Super Bowl champion himself to join its roster during the run-up to the Super Bowl, well, naturally sports were a focal point. But there was also time spent on Tubi’s growth, the dry wit of Jon Hamm (producer and voice of Fox cartoon Grimsburg) and the less-opinionated side of Fox News.

While guests of the Manhattan Center presentation were greeted by a small but enthusiastic group of protesters — their shouts to media buyers included “Fox lies, people die, don’t be the next MyPillow guy,” a joke about Fox News advertiser and 2020 election denier Mike Lindell — the Fox News portion of the presentation steered as far away from the network’s more controversial personalities as possible. Instead, they brought out correspondent Benjamin Hall, who was critically wounded while reporting in Ukraine in 2022. The journalist, who lost one leg, the foot on his other leg, the use of one of his hands and one eye, was welcomed with a standing ovation when he came on to plug the channel’s reporting from Israel and Gaza. You aren’t likely to see any more standing Os this week, a fact that irked Jamie Foxx a bit when he joined the stage a few minutes later.

Yes, that Jamie Foxx. The Beat Shazam host who’s barely been seen in public over the last year, spent a long stretch on the upfront stage, plugging the show he shares with his daughter, hyping other Fox projects and promising the crowd that his employers were “going to get [them] fucked up” when the bar opened. “I’m just happy to be here,” he said, seemingly a reference to doing promotions with his child and not a reference to his still-unexplained time spent out of the spotlight.

What differentiated Fox from the morning’s NBCUniversal presentation and, likely, the half-dozen others that will follow over the coming days is that it still selling the closest thing to traditional TV. There’s no need to posture about the streaming wars, because Tubi, the Fox-owned AVOD platform, is free. Subscriptions were of no concern in that room, and lack of airtime devoted to that subject was a welcome break from the streaming platforms’ sometimes-desperate hijacking of the upfronts.

But Tubi, as CEO Anjali Sud was quick to point out, has seen viewership grow 60 percent since the last upfront. For that reason, her original entertainment programming got as much time as the broadcast channel. Lauren Graham, who stars in upcoming original comedy Z Suite, took the stage with her Gen Z co-stars and got one of the bigger laughs when, after translating young-speak for the room, asked why they thought Tubi was “rizzing up viewers.” There is, of course, no data that could attempt an answer for that.

Of the two scripted trailers, medical drama Doc seemed to play best in the room. It’s about a doctor played by Molly Parker who wakes up from an accident having forgotten the last eight years of her life and thinks its 2016. (Oh honey, buckle up!) The network, however, might be a little higher on Rescue HI-Surf — a definitely-not-Baywatch lifeguard drama that gets the coveted, if increasingly less-helpful post-Super Bowl slot come February.

Aside from “Fox” and Ramsay’s repeated f-bombs, each one seeming to delight the crowd — and Food Stars co-host Lisa Vanderpump — more than the previous, February was the next most-referenced f-word. Because the Super Bowl is still king for advertisers, and Nielsen’s promise of expanding its measurement out of household viewership clearly has Fox high on the possibility of the big game setting another ratings record.

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