Fox: Familiar Franchises Make Easier Sell to Viewers

Television Group chiefs Walden and Newman note they still have 'Empire,' and they plan to use it

Why This Matters

Rebooted drama 24: Legacy; film franchise offshoots Lethal Weapon and The Exorcist; comedy The Mick

STRATEGY: Use Empire to attract viewers to Lethal Weapon… and Star.

Fox used its upfront presentation to trumpet its social buzz and ability to catapult a show into the pop culture pantheon, repeatedly holding up Empire as an example of its hit-making abilities. Of course, a network needs more than one bona fide smash, but Gary Newman and Dana Walden, chairmen and CEOs of Fox Television Group, suggested Fox was on the right track.

“Our audience is younger and our content is buzzier,” said Newman at New York’s Beacon Theatre on May 16. He summed up the network’s message as “a lot of familiar faces and a lot of stability.”

Empire loomed large over much of the presentation, with cast members, as well as new member Ne-Yo, performing and star Taraji P. Henson introducing Walden and Newman.

“What a performance!” gushed Newman. “Let’s see the cast of NCIS try that.”

Star, a new drama about an up-and-coming all-female group created by Empire’s Lee Daniels, provided a bookend with a pyrotechnics-accented medley that capped off the event.

Fox plans to do a split season next year with Empire to maximize its ability to boost ratings for the shows adjacent to it—Lethal Weapon leading in this fall and Star next spring.

Gotham too gets split-season duty.

The new season represents the most original programming Fox has ever featured, its chiefs said, with 90% of the Fox schedule fresh episodes. A few of the more hyped dramas stem from hit movie franchises: Lethal Weapon and The Exorcist.

In fact, proven intellectual properties are key to Fox’s new schedule. A couple revitalized series, 24: Legacy and Prison Break, are expected to shoulder heavy schedule responsibilities. 24: Legacy will enjoy the plum post-Super Bowl perch in February for its debut, and will lead into new drama APB, a techie/law enforcement concept.

Gotham slides into Mondays at 8 p.m. after 24: Legacy’s run.

Also in the reboot department, addressing the press hours before the presentation, Walden and Newman sounded confident that The X-Files would be back, though no sooner than 2017-2018.

With none of Fox’s 2015-2016 rookie comedies returning, including the high-profile crash of The Grinder and Grandfathered, the network could desperately use a laffer with real ratings. The Mick, starring Kaitlin Olson as a boozy hot mess, got hearty laughs from the media buyers in the Beacon, as did goofball time-travel comedy Making History. Both are pegged for mid-season, with The Mick paired up with schedule workhorse New Girl.

Son of Zorn, with an animated main character set against a live action backdrop, is, if nothing else, unique. Sandwiched between The Simpsons and Family Guy, it will have every chance to succeed. Proven funny guy Jason Sudeikis voices Zorn, a comic book warrior stuck in suburbia.

Other newbies are a topical police-shooting drama Shots Fired, and baseball drama Pitch, about a woman making it in Major League Baseball. The Fox chiefs said the corporation’s sports networks will help promote the latter.

Reality series include competition series Kicking & Screaming and My Kitchen Rules.