Network passes on traditional upfront unveiling

Departing from tradition, Fox won’t announce a midseason schedule at its May upfront presentation.

The net still will disclose its fall plans, as usual. But rather than set in stone January and March lineups that likely will change anyway, the net instead will walk media buyers through potential scheduling scenarios — and explain where new shows might fit into the winter/spring equation.

According to Fox Entertainment chairman Peter Liguori, that will allow the network time to continue developing some new shows into the summer, rather than making rash decisions in time for the May announcement.

“There’s no reason why we should have everything shot or piloted before the May upfronts,” said Liguori, who’s in New York this week to brief advertisers on Fox’s upfront plans. “We consistently premiere through the year, so there’s no reason to rush things. When you do a quick bake and microwave shows it winds up hurting everybody. …. Our scheduling strategy and buying remains the same, but how we shoot and develop will be modified in accordance with our needs.

“That’s a nuance, not a revolution.”

Due to the writers strike, many projects might not be ready anyway by May. But Liguori said this is a change he wanted to institutionalize. Net also is helped by its solid perf last fall when it launched just two new scripted skeins.

As a result, Fox likely will repeat that strategy, airing just a handful of new shows in the fall, and saving the majority of frosh entries for later in the year (when the net is bolstered by the returns of “American Idol” and “24”).

Meanwhile, Fox also took a jab at NBC’s announcement Tuesday that it would unveil a 52-week sked to advertisers in April, then throw an upfront confab in May.

“I’m trying to understand what is revolutionary or unique about what they’re doing,” said Fox scheduling topper Preston Beckman, who called NBC’s upfront switcheroo “cockamamie.” “Everything he said either we’re doing or some other network is doing. We’ve been developing year-round programming, and we have a great dialogue with advertisers.”

NBC countered that Beckman — who once headed up scheduling at the Peacock — had “missed the point.”

“Our announcement was a new three-prong strategy that hopefully changes the way we conduct business in this market,” said NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios co-chair Marc Graboff.

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