New Fox Entertainment chairman Peter Rice and entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly are set to announce a new 52-week schedule on Monday that is consistent with the network’s current lineup — but with one or two surprises.
According to Fox scheduling chief Preston Beckman, the net’s goal is to come into the fall with several returning shows and a sense of stability — “but the feeling of aggressiveness with the schedule.”
Like their counterparts at every other network, Fox execs are bracing for a tougher than usual upfront advertising sales climate, which means it isn’t a good time to throw skedding curveballs at media buyers.
“Given everything we’ve been told, this isn’t a year to go completely nuts (with your schedule),” Beckman told Daily Variety. “People are looking for stability, familiarity. The more the buyers know what they’re going to get, the better off we’re all going to be. There might be things on our schedule that surprise some people, and things on the other networks, but nothing insane.”
Key to what’s expected to be Fox’s plan: A fall lineup that almost mirrors its successful midseason, “American Idol”-fueled sked.
That includes moving “So You Think You Can Dance” into the fall and likely keeping drama hits “House” and “Bones” in their current timeslots. As always, Fox will keep Saturday intact and stick with animation on Sunday.
“What we’d love to be able to do is continue to build a fall schedule that’s organic to the rest of our year,” Beckman said. “We’re going to use assets to create hits.”
Beckman wouldn’t comment specifically on Fox’s new sked, which was believed to be pretty much locked in by Saturday. But he did note that the net has several more pieces to play with in the fall than it’s had in past years.
“We’re going into the season knowing that ‘Cleveland’ would be on in the fall, and made a commitment to preview ‘Glee’ after ‘American Idol,’ so you can assume that will be on in the fall as well,” Beckman said.
If the net is looking to further improve its fall performance, that may be where “So You Think You Can Dance” fits in. Word first emerged last week that “Dance” may air a sixth season (Daily Variety, May 13).
In the past few seasons, Fox has moved back to programming competitively again in the fall, thanks in part to a decrease in the number of Major League Baseball playoff games it now airs. Until three years ago, the net’s momentum was halted every October by three weeks of baseball preemptions; now, with the number of games cut in half, Fox has more of a gameplan for fall.
Fox still sees its fortunes skyrocket in January, however, when “Idol” and “24” return. That’s why moving “Dance” to fall (much like “Idol,” which began as a summer series as well) could make sense.
“We want to minimize the risk of failure in the fall, and I think we’ve done that” is all Beckman would say about the net’s plans. “And then we get ready to rock and roll in January.”
“Dance” could serve the same purpose in the fall that “Idol” does in midseason, helping shows such as “Fringe” continue to take root and also helping launch skeins like “Glee.”
Fox execs are high on “Glee,” which gets an early sneak-preview preem on Tuesday. Execs likely believe “Dance” is the best vehicle to help usher likeminded viewers into the show, at least until “Idol” returns.
It’s still unclear whether Fox would air a truncated version of “Dance” or make it some kind of special edition. A casting notice for the new edition went out last week.
Two scheduling scenarios were also in play for “Dance” as of midday Sunday: One had “Dance” airing in the same Tuesday-Wednesday footprint as “Idol,” more or less warming the seat for the singing competish’s January return. The other had “Dance” on Wednesday and Thursday (in the slot behind “Bones”).
That decision would impact where new comicbook-inspired drama “Human Target” may land. “Target” could be paired with “Fringe” on Tuesday or else “Bones” on Thursday.
“Bones” wasn’t quite a lock on the Fox sked until this weekend, when 20th Century Fox TV and the net finally came to a new two-year deal.
In what has become a common tale this upfront season, pact to renew “Bones” was held up as both sides haggled a new license fee for the show (Daily Variety, May 15).
This fall “Bones” will be entering its fifth season — the year in which sizable license fee increases are usually triggered as studios look to recoup their deficits.
Since both Fox and 20th are News Corp. companies, the pricetag isn’t as big an issue as what a revised license fee agreement might mean for the show’s profit participants. Given that self-dealing lawsuits are commonplace, the studio and network wanted to make sure a deal was in place that could be signed off by everyone.
The “Bones” deal repped the toughest negotiation between studio and network so far in the new News Corp. reporting structure. With the pending departure of News Corp. prexy Peter Chernin, who had overseen both the studio and the Fox net, those divisions now have separate exec overseers.
“Bones” was never really in danger of not returning. Show has helped Fox finally develop a scripted series pulse on Thursday nights for the first time in years.
But 20th did its due diligence in recent weeks, contacting other networks to see how much they would pay for “Bones” — under the assumption that they were looking to get a read on the show’s fair market value.
Elsewhere, it’s looking good that “Lie to Me,” which scored a 13-episode sophomore season order, may score a solid lead-in from “House” on Monday nights.
And now that it’s been renewed, Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse” will likely stay on Friday, where Fox is hoping to stick with scripted shows.
Also in the hunt for a home: new reincarnation-themed drama “Past Life,” as well as new comedies “Brothers” and “Sons of Tucson.”
Both laffers were rumored to be on the bench until midseason — but “Brothers” may make sense on Sundays during football season given that it stars ex-NFL player Michael Strahan. And Fox execs have said that “Tucson” reminds them of onetime Sunday staple “Malcolm in the Middle.”
“The goal is to have at least another hour (of comedy),” Beckman said.
And beyond “Dance,” at least one other summer reality series may find its way into the fall — be it “Hell’s Kitchen” or newcomer “More to Love.” In that case, Fox would simply push those shows into September and complete their run by the time the baseball playoffs begin.
“I’ve always wanted to bridge the summer and fall with one or two shows,” Beckman said.
Beyond all of that, Fox still has several episodes of “King of the Hill” still in the can, and a full season’s worth of laffer “‘Til Death” that has already been ordered.