Fox hypes hits to affils


New Orleans -- Fox executives told TV-affiliate-board members the
network thinks it has two winners and potential franchise hits on Friday night
with John Doe and Fastlane.

The network and board executives met Saturday in New Orleans on the eve of
the National Association of Television Programming Executives' convention.

Fastlane was recently moved from Wednesday nights (where it was doing OK,
at best) to Friday to replace the canceled Firefly, where the
network thinks it has a good shot at building a solid audience.

Not unexpectedly, there is a lot of concern among the affiliate ranks about
Fox's ratings drop this season, although affiliate board chairman John Tupper
said most stations realize the network is taking aggressive steps to improve

Indeed, Fox has gotten off to a good start in the new year with Joe
, which gave the network a 3-share-point boost on Thursday night
when Fox repeated it there.

"That's the kind of repurposing the affiliates like to see," quipped

This week, the second installment of American Idol: Search for a Superstar kicks off, and Fox is
expecting big ratings from that show, which emerged as last summer's big

Fox Networks Group president Tony Vinciquerra reaffirmed the network's
commitment to digital programming in the standard 480p (progressive) format, saying, "That's
where the market is today."

He also said the only way digital sets are going to reach critical mass in
the market is if programmers start producing more shows in the digital

He said the network is committed to producing at least one sports event
(including the National Football League, Major League Baseball and the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) per week in the wid- screen
digital format.

Fox and the board also talked about news coverage of the war in Iraq.

Stations may find themselves dealing with the network more closely than ever
if war comes to pass.

There have been reports that the Pentagon has established a new policy with
respect to a possible war under which it will only provide information to TV
networks and not TV stations.

That would make stations wholly dependent on their networks for coverage. It
is unclear how such a policy would apply to independent stations with news

One of the bigger, potentially fractious issues soon facing Fox and its
affiliates -- the renewal of their NFL-exclusivity pact -- was not discussed at
the network affiliate-board meeting, although Fox board members did discuss it
among themselves prior to meeting with the network executives, Tupper said.

That deal expires in June.

There have been earlier preliminary talks between the board and network

Bob Quicksilver, president of distribution for Fox Broadcasting Co., said he was
optimistic that the two sides would come to an amicable agreement.