10 Things We Learned From the Fox Upfront Presentation

Fox came out swinging Monday at its upfront at Manhattan’s Beacon Theater, warning media buyers of the dangers of advertising in “sub-prime video” offered by digital content purveyors.

“The digital metrics game is rigged,” Fox ad sales chief Toby Byrne told the crowd at the start of the presentation. “Impressions for sub-prime video can’t match the reach of premium television.”

Fox brought some swagger to the stage this time around, taking a few shots at the competition as TV group chairman-CEOs Dana Walden and Gary Newman unveiled a voluminous slate of new series that were generally well-received by the crowd.

After “Empire” cast members delivered a rousing opening number, Newman quipped: “Let’s see the cast of ‘NCIS’ try that.”

Here are 10 things we learned from Fox’s upfront presentation:

  • The spin against digital competition echoed components of NBC’s presentation earlier in the day. Broadcasters have more spring in their step this year as the strong TV scatter market and growing concerns among ad buyers about the efficacy of digital metrics has increased talk of more money flowing back to linear TV. “Non-premium video can’t hold a candle to TV’s scale,” Byrne told the crowd.
  • The clever coinage of “sub-prime video” made an impression on the upfront crowd. The term comes from Joe Marchese, Fox’s president of advanced advertising products, who included it in a thinkpiece he wrote about the problems of digital and linear advertising for MediaPost in 2014.
  • Don’t believe the hype. Millennials spend 80% of their time watching video watching old-fashioned TV, Byrne said.
  • Some 28% of Fox’s audience for entertainment programming now comes from VOD sources.
  • CBS Corp. Leslie Moonves came in for a ribbing during the rundown of Fox’s new lineup. They flashed a mashup photo of Moonves face on a “Gotham” villain dubbed “Lex Moonves.” Homer Simpson was featured in a video bit talking about the greatness of Fox compared to “the walking zombies who comprise CBS’ audience.” He added, “I’d take a shot at NBC but I don’t think they’re on anymore.” And he assured the crowd that “Netflix and Amazon are tiny companies that will never be heard from again.”
  • But Fox didn’t spare itself. A goofy video featuring Seth MacFarlane talking up the growth of Fox’s multiplatform audience ended with MacFarlane and Byrne getting in bed together to watch some TV. “You want to watch ‘Game of Thrones’,” MacFarlane chirped to a crestfallen Byrne.
  • Highly placed sources said “Modern Family” co-creator Steve Levitan pitched in with the script for this year’s upfront. Which probably explains this line from Newman to described Fox’s new drama “The Exorcist.” “This show is going to turn heads,” he said.
  • Fox’s comedy trailers played well in the theater. Kaitlin Olson’s “The Mick,” time-travel comedy “Making History” and the hybrid live-action/animation family comedy “Son of Zorn” generated big laughs. Of the character that Olson plays in “The Mick,” Walden said: “She’s like Mary Poppins, only drunker.”
  • Corey Hawkins of “24: Legacy” is a star. Period.
  • Laverne Cox + “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” + a Halloween-adjacent air date = a chance to do the time warp that’s not to be missed.

(Pictured: Dana Walden and Gary Newman)

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