FOX Executive Session
By Valerie Milano
Beverly Hills, CA (The Hollywood Times) 8/7/15 – Not often you see network executives humble, while at the same time, blowing their own horn. However, FOX has reason to be cautiously optimistic. They have the No. 1 show on broadcast television (Empire) that pulls in 17 million on average in the L7 window. Also last year’s newbies Gotham and The Last Man on Earth chipped in with a robust 12 million apiece when all the metrics are rolled in. They will sit loud and proud at the Emmys with 59 overall nominations (second only to HBO). Distance runners Modern Family, Homeland and American Horror Story are still earning their keep and racking up nominations. Speaking of rookie hopefuls, Dana Walden announced a pilot for an updated Urban Cowboy (obviously aimed at the Middle America viewership) and conveyed hope that they can turn the Empire trick one more time with the similarly themed music-biz drama Star. Toss in No. 1 summer scripted series, Wayward Pines and the (much anticipated) return of The X-Files, and you can see why FOX has reason to believe.
Dana Talked about bringing back the show Prison Break and how it factors into their overall strategy, DANA WALDEN: “Paul’s in the middle of writing it right now, and I would describe it as a bit of a sequel. It picks up the characters several years after we left them in the last season of the show. The brothers will be back. Some of the iconic characters from that show will be back. I don’t think Paul knows exactly where he’s going, over the ten episode arc, but it definitely will address some questions that were set up at the end of the series. For a network like us, or actually for content owners like 20th Century Fox Television, the brilliant thing about PRISON BREAK is it has had this great opportunity to be viewed by a whole new audience on Netflix. It was part of our output deal with Netflix. And I happen to know from executives within that company that it is one of the most successful library shows that they have platformed. So it gave us a lot of enthusiasm moving forward, that people are still really interested in these characters and that there’s a whole new generation of people who have caught up. So it will start after where we left the Scofields in the final season.”
Walden talked about the new FOX baby Star and a potential crossover with EMPIRE if things go well, DANA WALDEN: “The possibility of a crossover at some point exists, but it’s definitely not what we are planning right now. What we are planning right now is a wholly contained original series that will live separate from EMPIRE. It is modern day music business in Atlanta, and EMPIRE exists in New York. So it’s not inconceivable that the two worlds could cross, but that’s definitely not Lee’s intention as we go into it.”
Gary Newman was asked if he considered Sleepy Hollow an underperformer GARY NEWMAN: “The delayed viewing on SLEEPY HOLLOW is still pretty significant. So there are a lot of fans out there. And we also think that we didn’t have it scheduled in the right place last year. We don’t think it really was that compatible with GOTHAM. So we are looking forward to it being behind BONES this year where it seemed to be more compatible in Season 1.
Newman went on to express confidence in Sleepy Hollow, GARY NEWMAN: “To look at the network business now, independent of delayed viewing and other revenue sources, is taking a pretty limited look at what the network business is. The fact that SLEEPY is owned by the studio, our own studio, gives us an opportunity to give a show like that a little bit more room to try to find itself and connect with an audience, because the show certainly works for the studio internationally. We have a great SVOD deal for SLEEPY at the studio. So it takes a little bit of the pressure off. It gives us the luxury of trying to find the right time period for it.”
Though it’s early in development, there was strong interest expressed in the casting of Urban Cowboy, GARY NEWMAN: “We have just started the casting process. I think some actors are coming in tomorrow, in fact, to read for some roles. We don’t have any actors yet set in the show. In terms of the timing, we are going to be shooting that pilot in September, and we have put it on a fast track. We’re leaving open the possibility of bringing this back at midseason as a series. Otherwise, it would be something that we’d be considering for either summer or fall.”
Sleepy Hollow and Gotham both saw ratings slip from their respective hiatus, Dana Walden addressed the issue, DANA WALDEN: “…we certainly learned a lot last year about our serialized dramas and what a contemporary audience will tolerate in terms of repeats. And we were using a very conventional method of scheduling shows that don’t feel very conventional, that feel very original. This year, on several of our shows, SLEEPY, BONES, GOTHAM, EMPIRE of course, we are breaking the season into two installments so there will be virtually uninterrupted runs of episodes through fall and into the beginning of winter. Then we’ll take a hiatus. We have significant marketing funds set aside to ramp back up for a second part of the season that will start in spring that, again, won’t challenge our audience to try to figure out when our shows are in originals and when we are in repeats.”
Gary Newman talked about the current health of broadcast media set against the backdrop of binge programming and platforming, GARY NEWMAN: “What we think is so special about broadcast and I think EMPIRE was a great example of it in success is you can really create a cultural event and a social event. So, as people would watch EMPIRE, you’d find them tweeting throughout the show and blogging about it all week, and that sort of viewer interest really fed on itself. I think part of the reason, week after week, that the show continued to grow was because our viewers were doing a lot of the marketing for us. When you put everything out at once, which, obviously, is a structure that’s working very well at Netflix, you just don’t get quite you get that one big moment when you release the show, but I don’t think you quite get the same ongoing cultural impact that you get from a show that is connecting with the audience, where people can spend 12, 13 weeks looking forward to being home on Wednesday nights, and watching that show and being online and connecting with people.”