Fox Fumbles Handoff From NFC Championship to ‘The X-Files’

After a months-long promotional blitz for “The X-Files,” when Sunday’s big NFL game finally arrived, Fox fumbled the handoff. And that’s a surprise, given how long the network seemingly had this date circled on its calendar.

Never mind that the reviews for this eagerly anticipated revival have been pretty tepid. Fox spent months pounding the drums for the program, giving its premiere the plum time period following the NFC championship game, which, coupled with its AFC counterpart on CBS, are usually the second and third most-watched telecasts in any given year, behind only the Super Bowl.

The tub-thumping for “X-Files” included early screenings (back in October at New York Comic-Con and Mipcom, the international TV market), but Sunday’s kickoff was clearly the moment for which Fox had been waiting. Indeed, other than its returning hit “Empire,” the network largely slogged through the first half of the season to reach this moment.

Networks always use big sporting events as an opportunity to promote their shows. It’s one of the ways they can justify the enormous rights fees paid to the NFL. Even if the audience is borrowed, as network execs once described it, that doesn’t mean football fans can’t be held hostage and force-fed on-air promotion, along with all those Budweiser and movie ads.

Certain factors are inevitably beyond the entertainment division’s control, such as the fact that the game itself turned out to be a 49-15 blowout. In addition, Fox Sports’ post-game coverage droned on until 10:24 p.m. ET, offering a longer window for casual viewers to bail.

The real shock, though, was that Fox didn’t do anything special, either during the early part of the game or within its coverage, to promote the premiere. There were no awkward interviews with the talent, no taped pieces, not even shots of David Duchovny or Gillian Anderson sitting in the crowd looking bored.

Admittedly, a lot of those stunts are silly, and Fox did squeeze roughly a half-dozen “X-Files” teaser spots into the game. Yet even those weren’t particularly enticing — it was as if Mark Snow’s score was expected to do all the heavy lifting — and the overall promo payload showered nearly as much attention on the new drama “Lucifer,” an upcoming UFC fight and sister cable outfit FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”

In a sense, spreading the wealth around makes a degree of sense. After all, “X-Files” will only run six weeks – or five, really, considering that the second episode will premiere a day after the first. No reason to put too many eggs in that one basket.

The X-Files” should still open quite well, thanks to a mix of nostalgia and all the promotional work done up until this juncture. Still, after a prolonged and concerted push that essentially began, almost irritatingly so, when Fox announced its 2015-16 primetime schedule last May, the “X-Files” finally landed with less a big bang than a dull thud. And a network that usually prides itself on marketing acumen and ingenuity looked, more than anything, like it had simply run out of gas.

More TV

  • BAFTA Backs BIFA’s Unconscious-Bias Training for

    BIFA’s Unconscious-Bias Training Rolls Out to BAFTA Voters, Wider Industry (EXCLUSIVE)

    The British Independent Film Awards is opening up its unconscious-bias training to BAFTA voters and, more widely, to anyone who judges the work of others in the film and TV business in the U.K. With the makeup of award-nominee and -winner lists under close scrutiny, BIFA introduced its unconscious-bias training last year. Its voters, jurors, [...]

  • Jody Madden Replaces Craig Rodgerson as

    Jody Madden Replaces Craig Rodgerson as CEO of VFX Firm Foundry

    Jody Madden has been upped to CEO at U.K.-based VFX outfit Foundry. She steps up fromchief product officer and replaces Craig Rodgerson, who joined the company in late 2017. Foundry was bought by U.S. tech firm Roper Technologies earlier this year in a £410 million ($509 million) deal. The London-based business provides software and technology [...]

  • La Linea Invisible

    Mariano Barroso Shoots Basque Conflict Origins Story ‘La Linea Invisible’

    IRUN, Spain  — When- and why – do people begin to kill for a cause? Having created “What the Future Holds,” maybe the best reviewed to date of any Movistar + Original Series, Spain’s Mariano Barroso (“The Wolves of Washington”) tackles this question head on in “La Línea Invisible,” a six-part series, again from Movistar [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    Writers Guild Leaders Warn Members About Contact With Fired Agents

    Leaders of the Writers Guild of America are warning members about being contacted by their former agents — asserting that such efforts are an attempt to undermine the WGA and its members. The missive, sent Tuesday from the WGA negotiating committee, came with the guild in a bitter three-month standoff with talent agents that appears [...]

  • Mike Fleiss

    ‘The Bachelor’ Creator Mike Fleiss Accused of Attacking Wife

    “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” creator Mike Fleiss has been accused of attacking his wife Laura Fleiss at their home in Hawaii on July 4, according to documents obtained by Variety. The documents show that Laura Fleiss, who is currently pregnant, filed for an emergency domestic violence restraining order against her husband after he allegedly [...]

  • James Cordon Drag Race Handmaids Tale

    Emmys Trivia: 20 Surprising Facts From 2019's Nominations

    For a show that technically wasn’t eligible at the Emmy Awards in 2019, “The Handmaid’s Tale” did quite well this year. The Hulu drama picked up 11 nominations, including major ones like outstanding directing, writing, guest actress and guest actor, thanks to a quirk in the TV Academy’s Emmy rules. As previously noted, most of [...]

  • 'Schitt's Creek' Emmy Nominations Give Boost

    'Schitt's Creek' Emmy Nominations Give Boost to Pop's Profile

    The core executive team at Pop TV expected to be disappointed, but they still gathered at the CBS-owned cable channel’s Playa Vista offices early Tuesday morning for the reveal of this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards nominations. They were not disappointed. “Schitt’s Creek,” the quirky comedy series that has punched above its weight for Pop since [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content