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The old wall between Fox and Fox News is more of a sheer curtain these days. Evidence of the blurring between the pillars of Rupert Murdoch’s media behemoth can be seen in Rudy Giuliani’s recent turn on entertainment flagship The Masked Singer — and the network brass’ nonchalance over criticism for the casting choice.
Brand identity got even blurrier late Monday afternoon, when, for the first time, a “One Fox” upfront pitch to advertisers placed as much emphasis on conservative cable news outfit Fox News Media as it did on the broadcast network, sports division and ad-supported streamer Tubi. Susan Sarandon, the outspoken progressive who’ll star in Fox fall drama Monarch, even graced the same presentation in which Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott led a 10-minute pitch about her polarizing (and extremely successful) suite of platforms.
“We are all part of one Fox,” Scott said during her pretaped remarks, clearing up any lingering confusion.
Fox bucked precedent in other ways, ditching the large Beacon Theatre event of years past for a smaller venue downtown. The 500-capacity gathering at Battery Park City’s Skylight, held in the round, was an almost entirely digital affair. The same day NBCUniversal trotted out dozens of celebrities in the flesh, and hours after New York officials warned of mounting COVID-19 cases, Fox pitched a prerecorded “immersive experience” where various division executives walked through talking points and cut to messages from talent.
The most notable of those taped greetings came early, when Tom Brady offered up a quick “hello” to the crowd. There was, predictably, no clarity on when he plans to officially become a Fox employee — only that his newly announced Fox Sports commentator gig would begin “at some point” upon his future NFL retirement.
Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks probably won the presentation. Not only did his group get to go first, before the crowd realized that nearly the entire hourlong presentation would just be on video, he seemed to get points for honesty. The room laughed when he closed his pitch by announcing, “We absolutely love selling pizza and trucks and phones and insurance.”
All things considered, Fox News’ integration to the group upfront could have been a lot more awkward. Scott focused on breaking news coverage, praising the network’s reporting on the ongoing war in Ukraine and the news desk’s decisive calls during the 2020 presidential election. The talking heads from the opinion shows played a minor role, save ascendant Greg Gutfeld. Firebrand Tucker Carlson made a blink-and-you’d-miss it cameo, and Sean Hannity’s face only graced the theater’s four screens for a split second.
The broadcast network was much more eager to lean into marquee names. Camera-friendly Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier kicked off the last act of the presentation with a tour around Century City’s Fox lot before a barrage of network talent — Billy Porter, Marlee Matlin, Rob Lowe and Jamie Foxx, to name a few — introduced clips of new live-action and animated programming. Among them, Jon Hamm, voice actor and executive producer on upcoming cartoon Grimsburg, earned the presentation’s biggest laugh: “When Collier said to me, ‘Hamm, you have the face for animation,’ what else could I say to that jealous bastard but, ‘Sign me up.’”
It wasn’t until the very end of the 70-minute presentation that anyone actually appeared in person, when Collier accompanied a wry Sarandon onstage to briefly discuss Monarch. Her country music drama, which was originally intended for the 2021-22 season, is now the keystone of the network’s fall lineup after getting pushed by COVID-related delays.
She shouted out her hometown borough of Queens and then introduced her on-camera partner, country music singer Trace Adkins, who indulged the crowd with one song before the room dispersed for cocktails and a Nick Cannon DJ set.
“It’s probably the best marriage that I’ve had so far,” Sarandon said of Adkins. “Actually, I’ve never been married, so maybe that’s why this is the best.”
Update: This article originally stated that Tucker Carlson “went completely ignored” in the presentation. An email from a Fox News spokesperson clarified that his face did appear for a moment.
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