TVNewsCheck Focus On Programming

Fox's Original Idea: No More Reruns

The network is committing itself to scheduling more original programming — all year, but especially in the summer — to counter the effects of cable and DVRs. The strategy includes "event series" like those that have performed well on cable. Among the event series in development is a remake of Shogun, an NBC miniseries that aired over five days in 1980.
TVNewsCheck,

In the face of mounting cable competition and rising DVR usage, Fox believes that running repeats to fill the long summer months and to stretch 22 episodes across a 35-week TV season just won't cut it anymore.

So, the network that lost its No. 1 ranking this season is promising affiliates more original programming, some in the form of 13-15 episode "event series," each with its own complete story arc.

Story continues after the ad

Fox entertainment chief Kevin Reilly has been pitching the strategy, which borrows heavily from cable, to Fox affiliates and he is expected to share more details with the rest of the media world at the network's upfront presentation in New York on May 13.

“Kevin wants to move us more firmly into year-round programming,” says Shana C. Waterman, Fox’s SVP of event series. “This isn’t only about the summer, but that’s our first target."

Right now, Fox has at least five event series in development with the expectation that the first of them will appear in the summer of 2014.

They include Wayward Pines, a thriller from Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan; Shogun, a remake of the 1980 miniseries based on the James Clavell novel; The People v. O.J. Simpson, based on the Jeffrey Toobin book, with The Hunger Games’ Nina Jacobson executive producing; and Blood Brothers, about a group of friends at West Point torn apart by the Civil War.

Brand Connections

The series are not necessarily dramas. Also in the hopper is Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. Derived from Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, the 13-part PBS series that aired in the 1980s and made Carl Sagan famous, the updated version will be hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, another astrophysicist and popularizer of science, and produced by Seth MacFarlane.

“We’re calling these 'events series' because we want them to be big, loud and high impact,” Waterman says. “Along with that comes looking for talent who, because of time commitments, aren’t available for longer projects. This gives them an opportunity to dive into television.”

Affiliates like the idea of more original programming and fewer repeats.

“What Fox is planning represents a huge investment in primetime programming,” says Jeff Rosser, VP of television at Raycom Media, which owns seven Fox affiliates, including WXIX Cincinnati and WBRC Birmingham, Ala.

“Repeats used to be successful when there was far less competition,” says Rosser, who is also a member of the Fox affiliate board. “Now, the repeat cycle isn’t successful for networks or affiliates. Fox is adjusting to that.

“These plans are so big and require so much planning that they were in the planning stage well before the first episode of The Bible debuted. The Bible and other programming like it have reconfirmed that viewers look for big event programming.”

Mark Burnett’s The Bible, a 10-episode series that aired on History over four weeks in March, finished with an average audience of 11.4 million people. Last year’s Hatfields & McCoys with Kevin Costner, also on History, attracted 14.3 million viewers for its finale.

“There is a growing appetite for something other than the police drama, the legal drama or the medical drama,” says Simon Applebaum, producer of the online radio show Tomorrow Will Be Televised. “The genre is moving to other things like Showtime’s Homeland, [AMC’s] Breaking Bad, [Sundance Channel’s] Rectify or Syfy’s Defiance. That’s also true of The Following, which has done well so far for Fox.”

Shari Anne Brill, principal analyst at consulting firm Shari Anne Brill Media, says viewers get excited when shows are promoted as short-run events.

“Cable is really good at creating events and promoting them as such," she says. "When 24 was on Fox, it was promoted like a big event.”

Adds Brad Adgate, SVP of research at media buyer Horizon Media: “An event series lends itself to a lot of comments on social media and to binge viewing if you want to stream it."

But not everyone is convinced that event series is the way to go.

“My hunch is that this isn’t where their success is going to come from,” says Eric Deggans, TV critic at the Tampa Bay Times. “Kevin Reilly and his team are very smart, so I am sure they have their reasons for doing this. I’m just not personally energized by this idea. At different times, different networks try to introduce things that worked at a different time. In my cynical view, the networks don’t have any new ideas, so they’re going back to what worked before. They need to present something that is new considering all the increased competition they face.

“One reason we keep hearing for why network shows can’t be as good as cable shows is because they have to produce more episodes. So, if you limit the number of episodes, I guess that makes sense. But, frankly, I don’t see why they can’t do that with the series they have. Make fewer of them and make them better.”

Tags

Comments (1) -

RustbeltAlumnus2 Nickname posted over 3 years ago
Good idea. The networks already "repurpose" their shows on Saturday nights, so even Luddites get a second chance at some regular series.
Marketshare Blog Playout Blog

Twitter

TVNewsCheck

Ratings

Overnights, adults 18-49 for September 22, 2016
  • 1.
    4.0/14
  • 2.
    1.7/6
  • 3.
    1.3/5
  • 4.
    0.9/3
  • 5.
    0.6/2
  • 6.
    0.3/1
Source: Nielsen

Reviews

  • Rob Owen

    Easily fall’s best broadcast network comedy pilot, NBC’s The Good Place offers a clever high-concept premise that’s complemented with intelligent, sometimes absurdist humor. Created by Michael Schur, co-creator of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, The Good Place is a highly serialized series that’s essentially set in heaven and stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. NBC made five episodes of The Good Place available for review, and the show not only holds up, but also it improves, deepening characters that initially feel one-note and frequently leaving viewers guessing with cliffhanger endings to many of the episodes. The combination of snappy dialogue and winning but flawed characters makes The Good Place a great bet for fans of smart TV comedy.

  • Maureen Ryan

    Pitch has swagger, for good reason. It gets the big things right; the Fox drama about the first female baseball player in the Major Leagues is one of the year’s most assured and exciting debuts. But part of what impresses about the pilot is also the way it confidently strings together so many small but telling details. Ginny (Kylie Bunbury) is the first woman to be called up from the minors to the big leagues, and no show since Friday Night Lights has done a better job of portraying the internal and external pressures that weigh heavily on young athletes asked to do much more than merely succeed on the field. Pitch will likely do a good job of getting viewers to root for it. The hope is that the show won’t be an impressive, short-lived curiosity, but rather a long-term phenomenon.

  • Kevin Fallon

    In a fall TV season that’s already making a splash for championing diverse, distinctive voices in an array of projects that they created, wrote, and starred in, Better Things on FX stands out. The show is created by, written by, and starsPamela Adlon. She plays Sam Fox, the single mother of three daughters modeled after her own reality-show-ready experience raising three girls in Los Angeles following a divorce. Sam is also, like Adlon, a working actress — on shows both raunchy, a la Californication, and animated for children, like her role on Recess. It’s a refreshingly blunt take on single motherhood without sacrificing the warmth of parental love, portraying the dance between selfishness and selflessness that’s at the heart of being a parent — especially one weathering the hormonal fireworks of a household of four women at different ages.

  • David Wiegand

    The fall TV season doesn’t count as much as it used to — we already know that. But no matter how many retreads the broadcast networks throw at viewers in the next few months, this fall will be memorable because of the premiere of Atlanta on Tuesday, Sept. 6, on FX. The half-hour comedy created by and starring Donald Glover (Community), simply and brilliantly recalibrates our expectations of what a TV comedy is and how black lives are portrayed on the medium.

  • Louisa Ada Seltzer

    The second reboot of the 1980s John Candy movie Uncle Buck, bumped by ABC from midseason, has the same tired jokes you'll find on any second-rate sitcom. Too bad, because Mike Epps is appealing and ABC would be wise to keep him around for future shows, but there’s just not enough to this show to suggest it will last past summer. It also airs against NBC’s America’s Got Talent, summer’s No. 1 program on broadcast, which may make it even harder to find an audience.

  • Neil Genzlinger

    Bryan Cranston brings his Tony Award-winning interpretation of President Lyndon B. Johnson to television in an adaptation of the Robert Schenkkan play All the Way, and it’s still quite a sight to behold, just as it was on Broadway in 2014. Nothing beats witnessing this kind of larger-than-life portrayal onstage, of course. But the television version, presented by HBO, offers plenty of rewards, allowing Cranston to work the close-ups and liberating him from the confines of a theater set. Cranston’s performance is a gem — in his hands, this accidental president comes across as an amazing bundle of contradictions, someone who seems at once too vulgar for the job and just right for it.

This advertisement will close automatically in  second(s). You will see this ad no more than once a day. Skip ad