FOX Sports Town Hall: Eric Shanks talks Hurricane Harvey’s effect on FOX Sports families, ‘FIRST THINGS FIRST,’ college football


Live from the New York set of FS1’s upcoming early-morning show “FIRST THINGS FIRST” (beginning Tuesday, Sept. 5, at 6:30 a.m. ET), President, COO and Executive Producer of FOX Sports Eric Shanks hosted its quarterly Town Hall meeting on Wednesday. During the hour, Eric gave an update on FOX Sports colleagues in the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey, discussed where “FIRST THINGS FIRST” fits into FOX Sports’ strategy, talked college football with FOX Sports’ on-air talent and gave an overview of charitable organizations FOX Sports will support this fall.


FIRST THINGS FIRST” co-hosts Cris Carter (Pro Football Hall of Famer), Nick Wright and recently announced Jenna Wolfe kicked off the Town Hall by welcoming colleagues from FOX Sports and other 21CF businesses who sat in their studio.

“You can see here the result of a lot of great effort to get ‘FIRST THINGS FIRST’ launched, which is really one of the last pieces of the puzzle of a strategy that we embarked on three years ago, which essentially was to be live and relevant as many hours of the day that mattered in sports fans’ live before we get into live events at night,” Eric said.

With the addition of “FIRST THINGS FIRST,” FOX Sports will be airing live, original content 11 hours a day. Eric added that he saw “incredible” momentum at FS1.

“We’re the only sports network that is going to end this year with more pay TV subs than we ended last year, which is completely unique in our peer set. And as of now, we’re the only ones with a positive ratings momentum.”

Update on FOX Sports colleagues in The Woodlands

Eric began his opening remarks by updating colleagues on the status of FOX Sports operations and families in the path of Hurricane Harvey in Texas. “It’s been really gratifying that I’ve gotten so many emails from all over the country continuing to ask how our employees in the FOX Sports family are doing down in The Woodlands,” he said.

The FOX Sports facility “did exactly what it was supposed to do,” which is to withstand catastrophes like this one, Eric said.

“We stayed on the air during the entire rainfall and wind and still produced 80 games out of there over the last few days.”

The facility in the affected area was designed to provide shelter for weeks at a time. It’s currently housing 20 family members of FOX Sports colleagues, who are able to do laundry and cook.

FOX Sports is encouraging its viewers to donate to the American Red Cross to support relief efforts through its social media platforms, in-game elements on-screen and mentions by announcers on-air during live events.

Eric also noted that 21CF made a donation to United way of Greater Houston’s relief fund.

College (and high-school) football on FOX Sports

“There is no media company that is going to have the quality of product both Saturday and Sunday, not to mention postseason baseball, than FOX Sports has,” Eric said regarding the strength of the network’s fall programming. “No network has ever had three of the Power Five football conferences and double-headers on Sunday. We are going to be unmatched in our peer set with the audience circulation and the number of impressions that we’re going to generate in the fall.”

To talk all things college football, Eric welcomed FOX Sports lead college football game analyst Joel Klatt, FOX Sports lead college football and college basketball play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson, and FOX Sports college football sidelines reporter Jenny Taft to the studio.

Their conversation touched on the unique strength and appeal of college football; the difference between college football and the NFL; and the strength of FOX Sports’ upcoming college football schedule, which includes Texas at USC (Sept. 16 on FOX), Notre Dame at Michigan State (Sept. 23 on FOX) and Ohio State at Michigan (Nov. 25 on FOX).

“They’re quickly becoming the crew of record,” Eric said about Joel, Gus and Jenny. “I think after a couple of years doing the level of games they’re going to be doing, they will quickly take over the mantle as the most important voices in college football.”

Today, FOX Sports Southwest will air a live high-school football doubleheader in celebration of the first-ever Texas Football Days, which will join Hockey Day in Minnesota and Basketball Day in Indiana.

Eric expressed excitement for “being able to support and take ownership of something that is unique to us, which is our local impact on sports all around the country.”

Charitable partnerships and education

Each fall, FOX Sports announces charitable organizations it will support through FOX Sports Supports. This fall, FOX Sports Supports will partner with:

Eric also announced that FOX Sports University, a program that FOX Sports developed with prestigious academic and athletic institutions from around the country, will support 42 universities with a semester curriculum covering topics related to sports and journalism.