For executive producer Brad Zager, role at Fox is all about building a stronger team
On Sunday night, two days before Fox Sports produced the MLB All-Star Game in Cleveland, the network’s new executive producer Brad Zager had a late dinner with Joe Buck and Judy Boyd, senior vice president of production.
The group talked about the upcoming telecast, of course. But that was not the point of the get-together.
“It really was about camaraderie between employees,” Buck said.
It was just over six months ago that Zager was promoted to executive producer and executive vice president/head of production and operations. That dinner was not necessarily unusual — similar ones happen at all networks. But it illustrates the way Zager has approached his new role at Fox Sports, which is to get all of Fox’s divisions to work together.
“It used to be that the studio people hung with the studio people and the game people hung with the game people,” Buck said. “He’s more about reaching across the aisle and making it one big group that seeks each other out at a dinner table and isn’t afraid to mix it up.”
Internship ingenuity got
foot in door with Fox
The story of how Brad Zager landed his first job at Fox Sports is unique.
After graduating from high school in Detroit in 1996, Zager moved to Los Angeles to live with his mom. He landed an internship at the local regional sports network, Fox Sports West. The only problem? The internship was available only to college students.
The quick-thinking Zager enrolled in a couple of classes at Santa Monica Community College.
“I may have gone to class three or four times,” he said. “Then I pretended like I was going because I knew I couldn't keep the internship without it.”
Occasionally, co-workers would ask about his class schedule, and he would have to make up a story.
“After a year and a half, I finally gave up the whole ruse that I was going to school and just went all in with Fox,” he said. “I never went to college. I joke that I went to Fox Sports University.”
As an intern in 1996 and 1997, Zager worked as a researcher on Lakers pregame shows and Pac-12 football games. The gumption of an 18-year-old landing an internship in such a way comes from advice Zager received as a boy in Detroit.
“Somebody once told me to say yes to everything, and figure it all out later,” Zager said. “I just put my head down, said yes to everything and figured it all out later.” — J.O.
The well-liked Zager is uniquely suited for that role, bringing a boyish enthusiasm and tireless work ethic to the position. He spent eight years in a production truck producing Dodgers games for FS West. He spent a year as a media executive in Japan launching a network. He returned to the states to help launch FS1 in 2013 as a coordinating producer.
“He can talk to everyone — engineers, our tech team, talent, anyone in the truck,” Silverman said. “He’s in a unique place to put this all together.”
Zager’s biggest initiative so far has been the retooling of Fox’s college football studio show, which will debut this fall with Urban Meyer, Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart and Brady Quinn. For Zager, success will come through more than just practice at a desk. He has organized multiple golf outings and dinners among the group to help them get to know each other better.
“That chemistry that you see on air doesn’t start because they’re all sitting at a desk together — you have to actually like each other,” Zager said. “A big part of great television is chemistry. That chemistry just doesn’t happen when the red light gets turned on. Part of it is the stuff like dinners and golf outings.”
After only six months, it’s close to impossible for viewers to notice any difference on screen.
“When he got named to that spot, I was anxious to see what he would do now that he had the power to enact change,” Buck said. “It’s going to take time before you see the Brad Zager effect — whatever form that takes going forward.”
Zager is in no rush to put his stamp on Fox’s productions, saying he wants to keep an open mind and listen to as many opinions as possible.
“As you get promoted in the production truck, you go from being somebody who’s throwing out an idea and giving an opinion to the producer, whose ears are open more; you’re listening to everybody else and you have to make the final decision,” Zager said. “It’s very similar in this job. Fox is an open, collaborative place. Hopefully it continues to always be that way. Right now, my job really is about keeping those relationships.”