In a year marked by unusual upfront presentations, Fox Corp.’s event on Monday afternoon might be the most unusual yet. Yes, the writers strike wreaked havoc on the fall schedule (and put a damper on the company’s scripted sizzle reels), but Fox also took the opportunity to look on the bright side, all while picketers circled outside.
“We all hope the writers strike will end soon, but we’re more than prepared to lean in to serve our audiences with a fantastic schedule of original unscripted content,” Fox Entertainment CEO Rob Wade told the assembled crowd.
And later on, Fox News host Greg Gutfeld referenced the strike by telling the crowd (via a live video feed) “I have the number one late night show. I also have the only late night show going right now. So you don’t have a choice,” he quipped. Gutfeld’s 11 p.m. hour is still producing new hours nightly even as the rest of the late night landscape is dark thanks to the strike.
Indeed, Fox did not try to avoid the topic of Fox News, with anchors Dana Perino and Bill Hemmer appearing on stage, and a feed from the set of The Five, including Gutfeld, Jesse Watters, Jessica Tarlov and even Jeanine Pirro touting their program to advertisers. Sizzle reels also featured Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, though primetime was decidedly not a focus of the presentation, with the 2024 election instead taking center stage, as well as Fox News Media’s other platforms like Fox Weather, Fox Nation, and Fox Audio.
That was true outside the venue as well, where the Writers Guild strike picket line was outnumbered by anti-Fox News protesters yelling “don’t fund Fox lies!” at passersby, and calling attendees walking into the venue “traitors!” and “insurrectionists!”
Inside the venue, an enormous bar sat at the center of the Manhattan Center, with circus performers doing their routines on top of it before the presentation began. Dancing firemen, astronauts and football players were followed by Michael Strahan and Gordon Ramsey, who welcomed the crowd while standing on top of the bar. Rob Gronkowski, the ex NFL star turned Fox Sports analyst, introduced Fox ad sales chief Marianne Gambelli, who told the crowd, “We’re excited to host the first ever standing room only upfront.” (There was limited seating available.)
With little in the way of scripted entertainment to offer (the sizzle reels did not include any actual clips because the shows hadn’t been shot yet), Fox leaned hard into unscripted and sports content, touting its home as the most-watched network for the NFL, and the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Continuing the theme of unexpected interactivity, the evening ended with Fox Sports analysts Strahan, Gronkowski, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez flinging signed footballs and baseballs into the crowd.
It was star power notably missing from NBC in the morning, even if it was all from the world of sports.
And in a neat bit of Murdochian cross-promotion, promotional issues of the New York Post touting Fox programming were handed out on the street.