Upfronts 2009: 'Human Target' Buzz at Fox Upfront Party
Recession? What recession.If Fox skimped on its upfront presentation and party then it didn’t show. The network put on an event befitting its No. 1 status in the broadcast stratosphere: Hollywood talent, a music act, vodka-cocktails, food and fun. Actor Kiefer Sutherland introduced network management–ad chief Jon Nesvig; new entertainment chairman, Peter Rice and colleague Kevin Reilly–who collectively drove home the message that Fox won’t be resting on its laurels. (Click here for complete upfront coverage.)
In a group assault on cable, Nesvig revealed a graphic that showed general entertainment cable networks are down three percent. “Cable growth is news driven,” read the text. Behind Rice, a giant ad for TNT’s The Closer, and a word on the small numbers it attracts versus a show on Fox.
“Broadcast TV continues to reign supreme,” said Rice, “No other medium has the immediate cultural impact.”
“We could have had even higher ratings if we had left a couple of things alone,” acknowledged Reilly on the rescheduling of House and Bones to lead positions on Mondays and Thursdays, but said those moves were made to ensure they could become building blocks of the future.
Inside the party, there was nary a bad word for the network, which will finish the season on top in 18-49s for the fifth year straight. Even outgoing News Corp. president and COO Peter Chernin, martini in hand, looked stress-free, leaving newcomer Rice to make the rounds of reporters and advertisers.
While no one doubts new musical comedy Glee’s ability to become a hit for Fox, a B&C straw poll found that action thriller Human Target was the most talked about show.
“Human Target is like bringing the movies to TV,” Hotels.com Senior Director of Brand Marketing Vic Walia said of the show, which is based on a DC Comics novel about a man who shields his partner from danger. “There hasn’t been a show like that on in a while. It’s going to bring a male and female audience–it’s the kind of show me and my wife would watch. This is a great suspense action thriller.”
Carat’s veteran TV watcher Shari Ann Brill is positive on Fox’s schedule and likes the Bones/Fringe sci-fi tinged schedule move on Thursdays. But Brill notes, “It’s going to be a little strange to have three reality shows all on a Tuesday night.” NBC’s The Biggest Loser, Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance and ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.”
Elsewhere international program buyers sized up potential acquisitions for their channels. Jeff Ford, director of acquisitions at the U.K.’s Channel Four in London, described Human Target as a cross between the James Bond and Jason Bourne movies. “Human Target is like the Bond movies of six years ago, a bit tongue-in-cheek, and The Bourne Identity, which is grittier, harder-edged. You wonder where it’s going.” The U.K. network has already snapped up CBS’ The Mentalist and A&E’s The Beast.
Anthony Edey, series editor at Channel Four, said: “I do think Fox is making an effort to shake things up. Something you won’t see at CBS or NBC.”
And the pick of the bunch for News Corp’s Chernin? Human Target.