Fox Plans Summertime Premieres

Fox plans to start at least part of its fall schedule in the summer, trying to stem losses from the network’s monthlong interruption during its coverage of postseason baseball.

Preston Beckman, EVP of strategic program planning at Fox Television, said the decision was made in light of realities in today’s TV business, both for Fox and the industry in general.

“We’re in the unique position, having a month October when we’re pretty much going wire to wire with baseball. Having it makes it more difficult to get a schedule going,” Beckman said.

In October, Fox TV Entertainment President Gail Berman told a gathering of TV and advertising executives that Fox had been considering ways to boost the network’s fortunes in light of its multiyear commitment to Major League Baseball. Last year, the rest of the networks premiered during the traditional times in September but Fox, with the exception of a few shows during the off days in the playoff and World Series schedules, waited until November for many new shows and the season premieres of seminals like The Simpsons and Malcolm in the Middle.



New programs, like Fastlane and girls club, had trouble getting off the ground – or didn’t get off the ground at all – because they debuted and continued at off times. Fastlane, for instance, had shown encouraging numbers in its premiere and then was out for four weeks for baseball and then had to face the resurgent Bachelor on Wednesdays.

Beckman said Friday that it forced the network to think different.

“Because we have to stop our schedule for a month in October, there may be opportunities to get a fall show on as early as mid-July, get it going in the summer, so that when it’s pre-empted for possibly a month, it’s built up a following so when we bring it back, we don’t think it’s starting from scratch,” he said.

Fox’s long-term goal is to move toward the creation of a 52-week schedule, with shows beginning just about any time of the year, instead of the mostly fall premieres and midseason replacements that have been the norm for a while.

Another big reason for Fox’s plans? Two words: American Idol.

“We started to realize that over the past four summers, there have been four shows that came out of the summer as pretty successful hit shows that went on to help each of their networks shore up holes,” Beckman said.

Other shows were Survivor (CBS), Who Wants to be a Millionaire (ABC) and Fear Factor (NBC).

“We realized that at a time when there’s more opportunity to create something noisy and unique and special, you’ll get some attention,” Beckman said.

The shows wouldn’t just be unscripted; Fox would plan to premiere scripted shows in the summer. They could include one or dramas, one or two comedies, depending on the night and the schedule. Beckman said they will be announced in May.

“We’re setting ourselves up to be a lot more flexible this year,” he said.

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