Bellisario College of Communications

Alumna helps fill content needs for Fox Sports 1

Erin McMullen serves as manager of programming and acquisitions for Fox Sports 1. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

An all-sports TV network that presents shows 24 hours a day seven days a week needs “content” -- programming to fill all those on-air hours -- and when Fox Sports 1 makes its debut on Aug. 17 its programming day will have been shaped in part by a Penn Stater.

Erin McMullen, who earned Penn State degrees in telecommunications and geography in 2007, is the manager of programming and acquisitions and has been an important behind-the-scenes member leading up to the debut of the network, which will challenge ESPN for ratings and viewers.

“There were rumors about a launch and some changes. Everyone was excited or worried and I just approached my boss and told him I was pretty sure he couldn’t tell us what was going on but at the same time I told him I was interested in helping with whatever was going to happen when it did,” McMullen said. “A few weeks later, he pulled me in and it’s been pretty hectic ever since.”

McMullen previously worked for FUEL TV in programming. A lifelong Pennsylvania resident, she jump-started her career with a cross-country trip to California.

“I came to California to plan snowboard events,” said McMullen, who worked at Tussey Mountain Ski Area near the University Park campus as a Penn State student. “The organizers told me I could have a paid job instead of an unpaid job if I got there by Friday. So, I gave my parents about three days notice and got in my car.”

That’s an example of the personal drive that has helped McMullen in her career. She has planned snowboard events, endured losing another job and then secured a spot with Fox Sports.

She has learned a lot during her brief career.

“When I was growing up in Lewistown, Pa., I always wanted to get into advertising, but my experience with it was limited. I thought the Pizza Hut billboard along Route 322 between home and State College was the height of advertising,” she said. “That was really the extent of my experience before coming to Penn State.”

Her academic career and a couple of related internships prepared McMullen to succeed, and she has crafted an impressive early career resume as a result.

In her current position with Fox Sports 1, McMullen works to confirms the availability of programs. Once availability for a program has been confirmed, the team works with several different in-house audiences so everyone knows the status of the show and it eventually ends up on the broadcast schedule.

While many critics and viewers will focus on high-profile live sporting events that air on Fox Sports 1 -- things such as college football and basketball, NASCAR and UFC -- the programming and acquisitions team ensures that FS1 becomes more than just big events. McMullen has worked to add a mix of best-of, countdown, highlight and preview shows that will round out the network’s broadcast day.

After securing the shows, scheduling follows. McMullen and her team are working months beyond the launch date to set specific days and dates for all kinds of shows.

“When Aug. 17 comes, we can hopefully just relax and watch. We should be working a lot farther in advance,” McMullen said. “We work in databases. We used to have a big board with layers upon layers of information. Now it’s mostly spreadsheets. Excel is our friend.”

Her own schedule has been pretty much 24/7 in recent weeks. And she did not need the lure of a network launch to fuel her personal and professional fire.

“I give 110 percent of my energy every single day, and that’s the way it’s been since I’ve been working,” she said. “Attention to detail and quality drive me. That’s who I am and what I’ve been doing since I got my first job.”

In the weeks leading up to the launch, most of McMullen’s days have not been typical (lots of things happen in the final few days and they are planning for months in the future at the same time), but she tries to maintain a routine.

She rises early at her apartment in Redondo Beach, Calif., and gets to work at the “Fox Lot” in Hollywood in time for breakfast. She’s at her desk by 9 a.m., after daily training sessions and workouts to prepare for her first half marathon, scheduled Oct. 20 in San Francisco.

After that, it’s a consistent series of conference calls and meetings before she begins reading through her emails.

And, with her typical approach, McMullen always has more on her mind. The former field hockey player anticipates that first half marathon, which she plans to complete with fellow Fox Sports employees as part of a charity effort to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Still, there’s always the lure of more. “If training goes well, I can change my registration and do the whole marathon,” she said.

Last Updated June 02, 2021