Fox Upfront: The victory lap
If CBS held a relatively traditional upfront, Fox practically put on a Brooks Brothers suit and cooked meatloaf. The network’s event could have been held years ago … well, from 2005, at least.
With some competitors touting their alternative revenue streams, Fox embraced the classic on-air advertising model in a big bear hug. Buyers were repeatedly reminded the network was staying true to its “populist” and “scrappy” roots to simply provide compelling TV content watched by more viewers than anyone else.
Online efforts were dismissed with a statistic claiming that for every minute a person watches online video, they watch 14 hours of TV. Fox seemed to be channeling Homer Simpson’s line, “The Internet? Is that still around?”
The network indulged in a full theater-based presentation and a party -– the only broadcaster to do both. There was an on-stage performance (from a “So You Think You Can Dance” crew). There were plenty videos from new shows and even the yesteryear-style parade of series actors across the stage.
In a year when broadcasters wore the industry’s woes on their sleeves, letting downtrodden ratings and the writers strike reflect in their upfront plans, Fox’s ultra-traditional presentation and party was itself a show of strength -- the well-stocked dinner buffet as status symbol.
The comparatively lavish efforts might have seemed overreaching if not for Fox’s devastating ratings stats to back up its freewheeling spending.
When Fox ad sales president Jon Nesvig revealed that without the Super Bowl and “American Idol,” Fox still beat its closest competitor by 15% among adults 18 to 49 this season, ad buyers burst into applause as if Nesvig had levitated across the stage.
Yet the event’s overall theme –- that Fox is an old-fashioned network taking a well-deserved victory lap -- made its biggest announcement seem unnecessary.
Fox unveiled “Remote-Free TV,” where new shows “Fringe” and “Dollhouse” will air with half the usual number of commercials.
The name is great, a blatant pickpocket of NBC’s “Must-See TV.” Yet it’s also wildly optimistic. If you routinely fast forward through commercials, you’re probably not going to break the habit just because there is fewer of them.
That Fox is expecting ad buyers to pay a premium to run ads among fewer competitors on new shows likewise struck some as pretty bold: “Hey, here’s two sci-fi themed shows you haven’t even seen yet and have no ratings track record … want to pay extra for them?”
There’s a bunch of other pro- and con- thoughts surrounding the announcement and I won’t rehash them here. Let’s just say its best to keep some perspective. All told, “Remote-Free TV” is only one hour a week. As for the rest of Fox’s weekly programming, I guess the idea is to keep your remote handy.