Fox Says Returning Series, Young Appeal Make Its Fall Lineup A Winner

by , May 19, 2006, 7:45 AM
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Echoing a major theme put forth by CBS in its upfront annually, Fox argued Thursday that the strength of its fall schedule lies in its stability with a slew of returning series. The network, however, sought to distinguish itself from CBS--and the other major networks--by emphasizing its younger-skewing audience.

Fox is returning 16 series from this season--including first-year hits "Prison Break" and "Bones"--while premiering only three dramas and two comedies in September. Television's most popular show, "American Idol," will return in January, along with the surging drama "24." Somewhat surprisingly, so will freshman comedy "The Loop"--which premiered strongly thanks to an "Idol" lead-in, but then saw ratings plummet. Hot drama "House," now the sixth-highest-rated show in the coveted 18-to-49 demo, returns Tuesdays at 9 for the full season.

Once again, Fox will premiere its fall schedule in August in order to allow five to seven new episodes of shows to build a following before October, when the baseball playoffs dominate the network in prime time. Come January, the network will have a potent promotional platform for the second half of its season with college football's Bowl Championship Series joining its lineup, along with the NFL playoffs and "Idol"'s return.

Fox again chose not to shift "Idol" to Thursday, television's top-grossing night--opting to leave it on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and instead go with two new comedies in the Thursday 8 o'clock hour, followed by the return of "The O.C." at 9 (after baseball). "Duets"--a reality show pairing established singers with celebrities from Simon Cowell--will hold down "The O.C."'s spot in September.

Thursday at 9 is shaping up to be television's battle royale with ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," CBS's "CSI:," and NBC's highly touted "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." Peter Liguori, Fox's entertainment president, said the powerful competition caused the network to consider moving "The O.C.," but the show's "incredibly loyal audience" and its younger appeal convinced Fox that it will prosper there. "We've always viewed it as being really an 18-to-34--or younger--show," he said.

Advertisers are receptive to the "stable schedule" argument because it lessens the chance that they will bet on a show in the upfront, only to have it off the schedule just weeks into the season. If, however, necessity is the mother of new shows, Fox had little incentive to mess with success: The network is number one in the 18-to-49 demo among regularly scheduled programming--the core of what's sold in the upfront--and has seen ratings rise 11 percent this season, far better than any of its competitors.

Fox, which does have the advantage of programming seven fewer hours each week than the other major networks, is expected to lead the upfront market in volume gains and could establish a basis for CPM increases that the other networks would be forced to react to. The bullish forecasts are partly the result of Fox's strong appeal among younger viewers, giving it the potential to grab dollars that in the past may have gone to the UPN or The WB (which are merging to form The CW).

"There's no question we feel we are the network of choice for young viewers," Liguori said.

Come fall, Fox will make a new foray into the late-night arena with the addition of "Talk Show with Spike Feresten" on Saturdays at midnight. And next spring, Fox will use season finales as a launching pad for the debut of the summer reality show "On The Lot." From reality maven Mark Burnett and top auteur Steven Spielberg, aspiring filmmakers will compete for a production deal with Dreamworks.

Fox's new dramas to come this fall are "Vanished," which focuses on the search for the missing wife of a Georgia Senator; "Standoff," about two members of the FBI's Crisis Negotiation Unit who are sleeping together; and "Justice," a show from leading producer Jerry Bruckheimer about high-profile cases and how they are tried in the media.

The comedies joining the schedule this fall are "'Til Death" starring Brad Garrett and focusing on the trials of a long marriage, and "Happy Hour," about a suddenly single guy in Chicago.

Below is the Fox schedule for fall 2006 and spring 2007:

FALL 2006 SCHEDULE (All Times ET/PT)

MONDAY
8:00-9:00 p.m. "Prison Break"
9:00-10:00 p.m. "Vanished"

TUESDAY
8:00-9:00 p.m. "Standoff"
9:00-10:00 p.m. "House"

WEDNESDAY
8:00-9:00 p.m. "Bones"
9:00-10:00 p.m. "Justice"

THURSDAY
8:00-8:30 p.m. "'Til Death"
8:30-9:00 p.m. "Happy Hour"
9:00-10:00 p.m. "The O.C."

FRIDAY
8:00-9:00 p.m. "Nanny 911"
9:00-10:00 p.m. "Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy"

SATURDAY
7:30-8:30 p.m. "Cops"
8:30-9:00 p.m. "Cops"
9:00-10:00 p.m. "America's Most Wanted:America Strikes Back"
11:00 p.m.-midnight "MADtv"
Midnight-12:30 a.m. "Talk Show With Spike Feresten"

SUNDAY
7:00-7:30 p.m. "Football Overrun" (Comedy Encores)
7:30-8:00 p.m. "Football Overrun" (Comedy Encores)
8:00-8:30 p.m. "The Simpsons"
8:30-9:00 p.m. "American Dad"
9:00-9:30 p.m. "Family Guy"
9:30-10:00 p.m. "The War At Home"

SCHEDULE BEGINNING JANUARY 2007 (All Times ET/PT)

MONDAY
8:00-9:00 p.m. "Standoff"
9:00-10:00 p.m. "24"

TUESDAY
8:00-9:00 p.m. "American Idol" Performance Show
9:00-10:00 p.m. "House"

WEDNESDAY
8:00-9:00 p.m. "Justice"
9:00-9:30 p.m. "American Idol" Results Show
9:30-10:00 p.m. "The Loop"

THURSDAY
8:00-8:30 p.m. "'Til Death"
8:30-9:00 p.m. "Happy Hour"
9:00-10:00 p.m. "The O.C."

FRIDAY
8:00-9:00 p.m. "Bones"
9:00-10:00 p.m. "The Wedding Album"

SATURDAY
8:00-8:30 p.m. "Cops"
8:30-9:00 p.m. "Cops"
9:00-10:00 p.m. "America's Most Wanted: America Strikes Back
11:00 p.m.-midnight "MADtv"
Midnight-12:30 a.m. "Talk Show With Spike Feresten"

SUNDAY
7:00-7:30 p.m. "Comedy Repeats"
7:30-8:00 p.m. "King of the Hill"
8:00-8:30 p.m. "The Simpsons"
8:30-9:00 p.m. "American Dad"
9:00-9:30 p.m. "Family Guy"
9:30-10:00 p.m. "The War At Home"

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