On a typical weekend, the programming following Fox News Sunday can vary wildly from Fox station to station, ranging from church sermons to rah-rah infomercials to syndicated sitcoms. The architects of Super Sunday hope the stars-and-stripes subject matter—politics! football!—will carry the morning viewers through lunch into the afternoon’s jocular pregame shows and all the way to the 6:30 p.m. kickoff.
“Given the fact that it’s the Giants in the Super Bowl,” said Lew Leone, head of Fox-5 WNYW in New York, “my hope is that the viewers turn the TV on to Channel 5 at 9 a.m. and don’t turn it off until they go to bed.”
Back in his office, Mr. Smith leaned forward on the couch. He said he felt lucky to get the assignment. “I’ve been here a long time,” said Mr. Smith, who joined Fox News at its inception, in 1996, after stints, among other places, at Fox’s WSVN in Miami and Fox’s “News Edge” distribution service. “Roger [Ailes] and I are tight. I want to perform for him in the way a kid wants to perform for his dad.” (Echoes of Eli!)
In November, Mr. Ailes rewarded Mr. Smith’s success (The Fox Report just finished its 76th consecutive month at top of the 7 p.m. cable news battle) with a multiyear contract extension, reportedly worth more than $7 million a year. The deal put Mr. Smith in the same financial territory as the network news anchors Charlie Gibson and Brian Williams.
For the time being, News Corp. doesn’t have a national nightly broadcast news show. But for events like Super Sunday—and, for that matter, the recent State of Union address and the upcoming Super Tuesday primaries—when the station group needs an anchor to coordinate a national news event, they’ll continue to tap Mr. Smith, in part, for his just-the-facts on-air demeanor and his bottom-up understanding of the local news divisions.
“He’s the first person you think of,” said the station group’s Ms. Berg. “He understands and appreciates local news divisions. There’s no news anchor I can think of who, off the top of his head, can call out a city, whether that station has a chopper, what their call letters are. His roots are steeped in local news.”
Before the interview wound to a close, Mr. Smith said he was looking forward to watching Eli vs. the Patriots. “I’m very excited about covering politics,” said Mr. Smith. “I’m very excited about being at the Super Bowl. But for me this is about Eli and Archie. I’ve been thinking about Eli Manning being in the Super Bowl all my life. I’m probably more excited about this than he is.”