‘Call Her Daddy’ host Alex Cooper heads to Paris to help NBC win women

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During the recent prime-time telecast of the U.S. gymnastics trials leading up to the Paris Olympics, Mike Tirico, a mainstay of NBC’s coverage, told viewers to get ready for something special from the world’s most popular female podcaster, Alex Cooper.

Cooper, 29, rose to fame with her raunchy ruminations about dating, sex and life in New York City, but she’s not yet a household name for Olympics fans. So Tirico, a veteran sports commenter who also happens to be a middle-aged man, tried an introduction. When he noted to viewers that Cooper’s fans are known as something called the “Daddy Gang,” some portions of the internet, well, took note.

This, both NBC and Cooper say, is the point.

“It was insane,” Cooper said in an interview Monday. “We have our own little language on that side of the internet, and to see the legend Mike Tirico say ‘Daddy Gang,’ I mean, my DMs were flooded. Like, I thought I was hallucinating: ‘Alex, a man on national television just said ‘Daddy Gang.’”

The past two iterations of the Olympics in Tokyo and Beijing, interrupted by the pandemic, did not capture American audiences. To make the Paris Games feel bigger, and to recapture the event’s cultural cachet, NBC is leaning heavily on celebrity.

In addition to Cooper and her starring role on NBC’s streaming service, Peacock, the network is rolling out some boldface names: Peyton Manning and Kelly Clarkson will host the Opening Ceremonies; Kevin Hart and Keenan Thompson are doing a highlights show; Cardi B is doing promos; Snoop Dogg will be a track and field correspondent. “They’re about to get to dippin’, rippin’, ridin’, slippin’ and hopefully not slidin’,” he said of a group of runners during one race at the trials.

After the 2022 Games, NBC executives conducted market research tests and found that around one-third of people said celebrity drives their conversation with friends. That was especially noteworthy for an Olympics, where so many of the athletes are not household names.

Cooper is a celebrity in a different demographic: young women. She launched “Call Her Daddy” in 2018 with her then-friend and roommate Sofia Franklyn. The podcast began following the ignominious end of Cooper’s relationship with a Major League Baseball player reported to be then-New York Mets ace Noah Syndergaard. Barstool quickly acquired the podcast, and it exploded in popularity before the hosts had a falling-out and Cooper eventually took the podcast, alone, to Spotify in a deal reportedly worth $60 million over three years.

The show has evolved, adding meditations on mental health, positive thinking and female empowerment with guests such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Jane Fonda. Last year, it was Spotify’s second-most-popular podcast after Joe Rogan’s.

In Paris, Cooper will host several “watch-alongs” on Peacock that will accompany the main NBC feed. They will include a companion telecast for a U.S. women’s soccer game and the gymnastics all-around competition. She will host celebrities, will answer questions live and probably will appear across NBC’s social media channels and other NBC shows. She may record an episode or two of “Call Her Daddy.”

Molly Solomon, the head of NBC’s Olympic production, said she first learned about Cooper a couple of years ago when her daughters introduced her to the podcast. (“I hope they weren’t listening [at the beginning],” Solomon joked.) Last year, Cooper’s agency pitched her to Solomon as an Olympics contributor.

The fit was obvious, Solomon said, because the Olympics, unlike the vast majority of major sporting events, has a majority female audience. That means Cooper’s listeners are potentially both NBC’s current and future viewers.

“We know that women in their 20s are watching less television, and they’re on their phones and on social media and listening to podcasts,” Solomon said. “How do we convert them into Olympic fans?”

She added: “Alex has an incredible mind for knowing what young women want to talk about or listen to. I think she’s this generation’s Oprah.”

Cooper brings some sports bona fides, too. She played soccer at Boston University, and her father was a sports TV producer. She already has done a big sit-down interview for NBC with Simone Biles, the Olympics’ biggest star — and a “Call Her Daddy” listener.

“One of the first things that Simone said to me was, ‘This is the most excited I’ve been for an interview in my life, and I’m so excited to meet you, and I’m the biggest fan,’” Cooper said. “And I’m like, ‘Wait, no, I’m the biggest fan.’”

The Olympics are also part of a larger mainstream pivot for Cooper. She launched her own media company, Trending, with her husband, film producer Matt Kaplan, last year. Her exclusive deal with Spotify ended this year, and she is in the midst of plotting her next move.

“When you think about [the Olympics] show, the idea is to bring guests on so that a young woman and her dad could sit down and watch my show together,” Cooper said.

That is a long way from the earliest days of “Call Her Daddy.” But that’s also the point.

“I think I’m growing up,” Cooper said. “I was very adamant about focusing on appealing to young women [in the beginning]. I think it’s okay to expand and to open the doors for other people to join the conversation.”

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