Bold Fox Has More Modest Plans

Fox took the bold step last summer to launch five scripted series in the space of few weeks - an effort that yielded mediocre ratings and cancelled shows. This summer will be a more cautious story -- maybe TV advertising activity will tell the real tale.

Rushing five shows to air last year was part of Fox's effort to get out of the way of NBC's Summer Athens Olympics in the last two weeks of August, and also to keep up with Fox's then bold statement to provide new programming all year round.

It didn't work. Fox had to spread thin its already meager summer marketing resources across too many efforts to be effective.

Preston Beckman, executive vice president of strategic program planning of Fox, admitted last year that marketing five shows was overzealous. Even then, most media agencies programming analyst executives cheered Fox for its efforts.

This year Fox is only airing one scripted show, "The Inside," a crime drama, and will slowly roll out a select number of reality shows such as "Hell's Kitchen," about a foul-mouth chef, Gordon Ramsay, at the end of May.



About a month later, on July 10, Fox will air another reality effort, "Princes of Malibu," a half-hour unscripted comedy starring heavyweight music producers David and Linda Foster and their sons.

Summer reality shows are generally hits and run marketing efforts. Usually a limited series of three to seven episodes, reality efforts are relatively easy to market because of their one-note premise. In contrast, a scripted show usually needs more marketing resources to describe multiple story lines and to explain motives and descriptions of an ensemble cast.

Fox isn't quitting on its year-round programming approach - but you have to wonder if advertisers, who so voraciously backed the network's plan last year, will do the same this year with their pocketbooks.

It's hard to know if all this is just talk. One should go back to Fox and ask that question - did advertisers put up or shut up? And what will advertisers do this year - especially when the TV advertising market is much softer than a year ago?

If the latter is the case, Fox should hope the soft market will at least yield a soft crash landing.

Next story loading loading..