Fox: 'In It to Win It' With Big Bets Like 'X Factor'

Net slates 4 comedies, 3 dramas, 1 unscripted show
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STRATEGY: Hang onto demo dominance by doubling down on attentiongrabbing, signature shows like The X Factor (2.5 hours/week worth this fall), expensive epic Terra Nova and a spate of new comedies.


Fox has been tops in the adult 18-49 demo for seven seasons running—and network brass vowed at upfronts to keep placing big bets so as to not let that winning streak out of their sight. In his first upfront as head of ad sales, Toby Byrne last week fired up the figures exhibiting Fox’s dominance, then quickly promised: “We don’t take it for granted.”

To keep that pole position, Fox plans to build its fall primetime programming lineup around its much-hyped, new Simon Cowell-led talent competition The X Factor, which is being slotted in the Wednesday-Thursday time period pattern the network currently is using for American Idol. Fox Broadcasting Entertainment President Kevin Reilly repeatedly referred to The X Factor as the network’s “tent pole.”

X Factor
got a huge push at the network’s presentation to advertisers, with a dramatic clip reel and a brimming-with-confidence Cowell, who proclaimed the first two days of shooting on X Factor were probably the best he’s ever done. He added, “We are definitely going to kick some ass.”

Fox also is betting big on the epic Steven Spielberg drama Terra Nova Mondays at 8 p.m. this fall, and is slating a round of new comedies in the new season. Reilly underlined Fox’s commitment to big programs, some of which take a little extra time to mount, announcing during the May 16 presentation at New York City’s Beacon Theatre that Fox animation powerhouse Seth McFarlane is working on a Flintstones revival aimed at a 2013 debut.

Fox scheduled four new comedies, three dramas and one unscripted series for the new season. “We think we have a very strong schedule for next year,” Peter Rice, chairman, entertainment, Fox Networks Group, said during a conference call with reporters.

However, the revitalization of comedy is key, Reilly said during the conference calls. “We’re trying to methodically work it in,” he said.

Fox is debuting two new live-action comedies this fall in plum time periods. New Girl, starring Zooey Deschanel, which got a warm reception at the Fox presentation, will follow Glee on Tuesdays. I Hate My Teenage Daughter (working title), starring Jaime Pressly and Katie Finneran, will get the Wednesday post-X Factor slot.

Fox also has slated a midseason test run of a fourcomedy block and will set that lineup after executives see how things “shake out” in development this summer and on the air this fall, Reilly said.

“It would be a very healthy thing for television to get that genre going again,” Reilly said. “I actually think we will this season.”

The rest of the fall schedule remains pretty stable. Allen Gregory, a new animated comedy from actor Jonah Hill, will join the Sunday animation lineup this fall. An animated Napoleon Dynamite steps into the block in midseason.

Bones
will follow X Factor’s results show on Thursdays, and its spinoff The Finder will slot in come midseason while Bones star Emily Deschanel is on maternity leave. Fox is sticking with Kitchen Nightmares and Fringe on Fridays and will cycle Saturday’s long-running America’s Most Wanted down to quarterly, two-hour specials.

In midseason, American Idol will return for its 11th edition, with a special event following the NFC Championship game Sunday, Jan. 22. Fox will air a special celebrating the network’s 25th anniversary on Sunday, April 1.

E-mail comments to mgrego@nbmedia.com and follow her on Twitter: @MelissaGrego

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