Upfronts 2010: Fox Trumpets TV, Blasts NBC


The two main takeaways from Fox’s upfront presentation: Television — specifically broadcast television — is still relevant, and NBC is still the industry’s favorite whipping boy. (Click here for complete upfront coverage.)

Fox Networks Group Entertainment Chairman Peter Rice hammered home the first point while Fox Broadcasting Entertainment President  Kevin Reilly beat on the latter.

Rice opened the presentation at New York’s Beacon Theatre with a figurative fist pump to the “creative risks” embarked on at Fox. But he also counted Modern Family, on rival ABC, as among the broadcast content that “broke new ground” this season.

“There’s a sense of vitality that we haven’t seen in many years,” he said.

Despite the proliferation of anytime/anywhere platforms, HD is keeping consumers in their living rooms in front of their flat screens, added Rice. And despite the doomsday prognostications that online streaming would kill television, “it turns out that it’s dynamic and additive,” he said

The Internet, said Rice, is letting viewers forge “deeper relationships” with shows, bringing “the audience closer to the action.” But still, “nothing connects us more than watching television. Television is what drives so much of our cultural conversation.”

Reilly played the bad cop, taking multiple swipes at NBC, his former employer, which had its upfront presentation earlier in the day. Reilly noted that “being the top dog” can make a company “complacent,” saying, “I can also tell you that complacency is genetically impossible at Fox.”

Reilly listed examples of Fox’s “creative restlessness,” including The Simpsons, Hugh Laurie’s Dr. House and American Idol.

“We built our schedule around a musical comedy,” he said referring to Glee, “a genre that has worked on television, well, never.”

This year, he added, Fox has been “laser focused on increasing our comedy presence,” an acknowledgment of Fox’s dismal comedy development of late.

But in a parting shot, Reilly noted that Fox is nevertheless in much better shape than NBC in the wake of its failed primetime Jay Leno experiment. “While some of our competitors are launching five and six new hours, we’re laser focused on just two.”