TV & Streaming

Fox embraces scripted content for fall schedule

For fall, scripted dramas, comedies, and animated shows are coming back, as well as upcoming tentpoles like the Super Bowl.
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Fox Corp.

· 4 min read

Fox Corp. isn’t like the other networks courting advertisers this upfronts week.

Though the broadcaster has an expansive streaming deal with Hulu and owns the free, ad-supported streamer Tubi, it does not have a subscription streaming service of its own, something that Fox Entertainment CEO Rob Wade positioned as a positive during a call with reporters on Monday ahead of the company’s annual upfront presentation.

“We aren’t encumbered by the losses of a large streaming company,” Wade said. “That allows us to focus on creating…I think the last seven years have been very disruptive to the industry. The proliferation of content at very low prices, quite frankly, didn’t work out well for our competitors, and now we’re through that and we’re very optimistic about the future and in the way we position our assets.”

Speaking of Fox’s assets, the company focused heavily on its upcoming lineup of scripted and unscripted programs during an upfront-day conference call, a significant change from its past two upfronts, during which Fox decided against announcing its fall TV slate.

Read the script: In the coming TV season, Fox will introduce new shows in comedy, drama, and animation, as well as in the unscripted category, according to Michael Thorn, president of Fox Television Network and Fox Entertainment. Last year’s upfronts skewed heavily toward unscripted content like sports, given that the Writers’ Guild was on strike at the time, but that’s not the case this year.

  • Thorn touted three relatively new scripted workplace dramas during the pre-upfront call: Rescue: HI-Surf and Doc, both of which Fox teased during its upfront last year, and Murder in a Small Town.
  • In scripted comedy, Thorn announced that actor and comedian Denis Leary is set to star in and executive produce Going Dutch.
  • Fox also ordered a second series of animated comedy Universal Basic Guys ahead of the first season’s premiere.
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On the unscripted front, he highlighted popular shows like The Masked Singer and The Floor, as well as new ones like survival competition series Extracted and The Real Full Monty, a two-hour special inspired by the 1997 film The Full Monty.

Measuring tape: The TV industry still relies on Nielsen for measurement, despite issues with its accreditation a few years back. This upfronts season, some in the industry have their eyes on Nieslen’s panel-plus-big-data currency, which was created to address “statistical sampling errors associated with panel measurement” such as low viewership resulting in zero ratings for some shows on the Nielsen panel.

Jeff Collins, Fox Corp.’s president of ad sales, marketing, and brand partnerships, acknowledged that there were “questions on the readiness” of the product, but said his team is talking with agency partners about it and that he expects to “have most of that resolved within the next week as we head into more serious upfront conversations.” Publicis reportedly thinks panel-plus-big-data isn’t yet ready for use.

“We do think that big data is ultimately the direction the industry needs to go in,” Collins said.

Super Bowl: Dan Harrison, EVP of program planning and content strategy for Fox Entertainment, said the coveted post-Super Bowl programming slot will be used to air a “special episode” of Rescue: HI-Surf. Existing shows tend to perform better in that spot than new premieres, Wade added.

During Fox’s upfront presentation at the Hammerstein Ballroom Monday night, Tom Brady made an appearance, where he stood alongside Michael Strahan to announce that he is set to kick off his broadcast career with Fox Sports during NFL Week 1.

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