About two years ago, the podcast “Call Her Daddy” became an instant success and gained over 100,000 subscribers on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. “Call Her Daddy,” hosted by best friends Alexandra Cooper and Sofia Franklyn, is a hilarious and provocative podcast about sex, dating and living in New York City in your 20s. The podcast was acquired by the Barstool Sports franchise in 2018 and has since become the highest grossing podcast at Barstool, bringing in millions in merchandise and ad revenue. Just this past week, a string of internet drama and presumed backstabbing leaves the future of the podcast completely up in the air.
The founder of Barstool, Dave Portnoy, uploaded an episode called “Daddy Speaks” on Sunday, May 17 after nearly six weeks of no new content. This 29-minute explanation gives his side of the story, revealing the building tension brewing over the past few months between the girls and Portnoy.
“I’m going to give my unbiased take on what happened. You can believe it, you can not believe it. Do whatever you want really,” Portnoy said.
When Franklyn and Cooper originally signed a three-year contract with Barstool, the deal included a $70,000 starting salary for each and bonuses for every download. This deal allowed the girls to grow their podcast under the Barstool name, but it came with one condition: the intellectual property of “Call Her Daddy” belonged to Barstool Sports.
“We aren’t going to do this deal if you [Franklyn and Cooper] don’t give us the ownership of ‘Call Her Daddy’ because it makes no sense,” Portnoy said. “We don’t want to blow you guys up and then just have you walk out the door and you own ‘Call Her Daddy.’”
A New York Times article reported that, in just two months, the podcast jumped from 12,000 to two million downloads. It was ranking alongside big-league podcasters and radio show hosts like Joe Rogan.
“It was an instant success, smash hit, huge, huge podcast, bigger than my wildest dreams and bigger than they thought it would be right off the bat,” Portnoy said.
According to Portnoy in “Daddy Speaks,” both Franklyn and Cooper renegotiated money around six months into their contract. Cooper came into Portnoy’s office by herself and asked for a raise, and Barstool gave both Cooper and Franklyn more money. After the first year, Cooper was earning $506,000 and Franklyn was earning $461,000.
“Alex was making more money than Sofia in the beginning, and to be honest, I thought rightfully so,” Portnoy said. “Alex is who I talked to all the time, Alex is who I found for the contract, to me Alex was the one doing all the editing, Sofia was sort of along for the ride.”
When the second year of their contract rolled around, Franklyn and Cooper both decided to explore different options despite their three-year contract, as the two believed they could continue to expand the podcast without Barstool’s support and funding. According to Portnoy, when Cooper and Franklyn were shopping the podcast to see what else was out there, they gave him a list of requests to renegotiate their contract: they wanted a guaranteed $1 million each, they wanted to be classified as freelancers (no longer employees of Barstool) and they wanted to sell their own merchandise and ads. In addition, they wanted 50% of everything they did, and most importantly, they wanted the intellectual property back.
“We cut off negotiations after they made those demands with the lawyer,” Portnoy said.
In an episode posted on April 1, the caption underneath the episode read, “Everything is about to change …” In this episode, Franklyn and Cooper briefly warned their listeners around the 50 minute mark that there were some major changes going on behind the scenes with Franklyn’s boyfriend, nicknamed “Suitman” to protect his identity on the podcast. In “Daddy Speaks,” Portnoy disclosed that “Suitman” was Peter Nelson, the executive vice president of HBO Sports.
According to Portnoy, Nelson had been helping them shop around for “Call Her Daddy,” acting as their manager. Portnoy also believed that Nelson brought in the lawyers that are trying to find loopholes in the Barstool contract.
Portnoy said that his final offer was a guaranteed half of $1 million to each of them, increase in merchandise profits and bonuses, and a shortening of their contract by six months so they could leave Barstool Sports early. Portnoy would give them the IP so that when their contract was over with Barstool, they could leave and still own the rights to CHD.
“I just wanted to get money for next year in the revenue stream going, so we can pay the bills when we are shut down and we have this payroll,” Portnoy said. “Without that, this deal probably never gets offered.”
The deal was so great in Portnoy’s eyes that he assumed they would sign it right there. He was stunned when they simply walked away, claiming they needed time to think.
The last episode made by Franklin and Cooper was on April 8 and they haven’t posted a new episode since. They mentioned on their socials that they legally cannot speak about it, stating that they will update everyone soon. Listeners later learned from Portnoy that the duo were, in fact, free to talk about it. Instead, Franklin and Cooper were using this time to discuss their next moves in leaving Barstool Sports, suspectedly for the podcast network, Wondery.
The podcast’s faithful followers, or “The Daddy Gang,” began trending the hashtag #FreeTheFathers because they thought they may have been silenced by Barstool Sports during the pandemic. “The Fathers” were implied to be Franklin and Cooper.
Barstool Sports tried anonymously selling #FreeTheFathers merchandise to make some extra money, exploiting the fact that the Daddy Gang believed that Cooper and Franklyn needed to be saved. Portnoy said that Cooper and Franklyn were in on it, and it wasn’t very successful in recouping their lost revenue from failing to post for six weeks.
Franklyn posted a response on her personal Instagram story on May 19 regarding “Daddy Speaks,” which was posted two days prior on the “Call Her Daddy” channel. She announced that she was going to speak out about her side of the story and started by apologizing for the way Cooper and herself went about shopping around for other contract deals.
“We could’ve handled it differently, but we still wanted to work something out with Barstool, hence the meeting with [Portnoy],” Franklin said.
She then addressed her relations with Cooper during this fiasco of internet drama.
“I found out that [Cooper] had gone behind my back and done something,” Franklyn said. “And I found out it wasn’t the first time. And that’s why we are here.”
That something was Cooper negotiating a new contract with Barstool without Franklyn, obtaining 75% of the contract that would have been split 50/50 between both Franklyn and Cooper.
“I think she was like in her mind, she believes ‘I do all the editing, I do all the work, I do most of it, I should get 75% no matter what,’” Portnoy said.
Portnoy believes that the other deal that Franklyn’s boyfriend lined up with Wondery fell through when they heard that Cooper was not leaving Barstool Sports. Franklyn then attempted to return to Barstool, only to find that her original contract was no longer there. Cooper had already renegotiated without her.
“It was too late,” Portnoy said. “The 50/50 deal, [Cooper] didn’t want to do it anymore.”
Franklyn feels betrayed, but mentioned on her story that Cooper is her best friend and that does not change overnight.
She continues to say that she is willing to do “Call Her Daddy” but not in the conditions that Cooper is asking for.
“I don’t want to be her employee, we are partners, we’ve always been that way, we’ve always been 50/50,” Franklyn said.
Cooper has not posted, reposted or said anything regarding either Portnoy or Franklyn’s statements.
Portnoy responded to Franklyn’s post with an “emergency press conference” on IGTV where he reiterated his previous statements. Portnoy has also been raiding the “Call Her Daddy” socials — Instagram and Twitter — with trolling posts, from memes about “Suitman” to videos asking people, specifically girls, to send audition clips for their own podcasts.
If you want to join in on this social media war, consider buying the new “cancel suitman” merchandise just posted to Barstool Sports’ website, or follow the drama by following those involved on their personal social media accounts.
If Cooper signs a contract to return to Barstool Sports without Franklyn, the podcast will undergo major changes. However, it may cause the podcast to blow up more than ever before. Franklyn may be taking a man’s side over her best friend’s, but with the “Call Her Daddy” name circulating throughout the media, this week’s antics embody the spirit of the podcast that the Daddy Gang currently misses: scandal, drama, entertainment and comedy.
Christina Reyes is a Sports Co-Editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.