The Tom Brady Conundrum

Tom Brady
Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images
Dylan Byers
May 13, 2022

Lachlan Murdoch kicked off Fox’s quarterly earnings call this week with a surprise, ace-in-the-hole talent announcement, the kind of news that a media executive relishes having the opportunity to make public: Tom Brady, the seven-time Super Bowl winner and the greatest quarterback in the history of the N.F.L., would be joining Fox Sports as its lead analyst “immediately following his playing career, whenever that may be.” Brady, of course, retired and then un-retired this winter, but most presume this will be his final season. In August, he will turn 45, which he has long suggested was the age he wanted to play until.

The news understandably upended the worlds of sport and media, culminating with a report in the New York Post, that other Murdoch organ, that the deal was a 10-year agreement to the tune of $375 million in overall compensation. It’s a figure that, as has now been widely noted, eclipses the $322 million that Brady has made over the course of his 20-plus year N.F.L. career. 

And it was at this point that many people in the media industry who have experience and insight into how the business works, and understand how value is created in television (and how it isn’t), did a double-take, shook their heads and started texting one another. “Irresponsible and foolish,” one Hollywood power agent told me. “Big mistake,” wrote a sports media executive. And, as one television executive put it: “$$$$$$$$$.”