Tom Brady will begin his career as a football analyst with Fox Sports with the 2024 NFL season, he announced today. Brady retired from the NFL on Feb. 1, having won seven Super Bowls and three most valuable player awards in his 23-season career. Fox is paying the retiree $375 million over 10 years to be its lead NFL analyst, the largest sum in sportscasting history.
“Fox wants its network identified with the best, whatever the cost,” said Dennis Deninger, who spent 25 years as a production executive at ESPN and teaches at Syracuse University.
Fox has long been a major player in NFL broadcasting, but the rise of streaming has changed the landscape. Amazon Prime Video bought the exclusive rights to Thursday Night Football for 10 years. YouTube, owned by Alphabet, will begin streaming games on YouTube TV this year as it continues to develop its streaming footprint. In addition to these new players, Fox continues to compete with NBC, ESPN and CBS as it broadcasts on cable.
NFL broadcasts are a huge part of the business models for these networks. Out of the 100 top watched telecasts in the U.S. last year, 82 were NFL games, and Fox broadcasted 26 of them. Fox is paying $2 billion annually through the 2033 season for rights to show a slate of Sunday afternoon games.
Networks try to differentiate their broadcasts through their announcers and analysts. Analysts help viewers understand the game from a player’s perspective, often pointing out the depth and intricacies of plays an average viewer might miss, Deninger said. Since Brady’s career as an analyst hasn’t started, it is unclear if the value he brings to the broadcasts is worth the largest payout in history.
Even if Brady proves to be an expert analyst, viewers tune into games featuring the most compelling matchups. “If he’s not calling the best game, it won’t make much of a difference,” Deninger said. There might be a spike in viewership when Brady first joins the broadcast because people will be curious about his analysis, but it will likely trail off with time, he said. Ultimately, viewers will watch the games they want to watch regardless of the broadcaster. Fox did not immediately respond to the Observer’s request for comment.
Fox has bragging rights with Tom Brady
Out of all the networks that could have signed Brady, Fox might have needed it the most. Last year, Fox lost its lead team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, Fox announcers for 20 years each, to Disney’s ESPN. Eli Manning and Peyton Manning, brothers and former NFL players, also announce for ESPN. CBS has locked in Tony Romo, whom Deninger called the best NFL analyst, and Amazon’s production studio is lined with stars. Fox’s contract with Brady is less about earning its revenue back and more about bragging rights, said Karen Sebesta, who spent 30 years at Canadian broadcaster CBC Sports and produced a dozen Olympic Games programs.
While there isn’t much evidence sports announcers impact ratings, there is value in recruiting former players to the network, said Sebesta. “To have one of the No. 1 players join your broadcasting team—that’s cachet and celebrity beyond any dollar value,” she said. More football fans like him than don’t, she said. They respect status, which he has, and it would take longer for viewers to grow on someone less high profile.
Brady can also be a promotional tool for Fox, said Deninger. He can help draw attention to the network, he said, which might help persuade advertisers to spend money.