Commentary

The New Fox Is Billed As An Independent TV Network - Is It?

Charlie Collier, CEO of Fox Entertainment, has billed the newly designed TV-network and TV station-centric company he runs as something of a rebel in the current TV world.

“Our independence allows us to question every assumption about what it means to be a broadcast network," Collier said, speaking at the recent Television Critics Association meeting in Beverly Hills.

In the truest sense of the word, Fox won’t really be that. Independent from what?

Tell me that Fox won’t be taking premium TV programs from all Hollywood studios/producers -- the same ones that have been delivering prime-time programming on broadcast networks and cable network TV programming for decades. If that's the case, Fox would be truly independent.

Tell me Fox won’t be taking established sports, like NFL and Major League Baseball. That would be an independent move.

Sure, Fox will get to pick and choose. But this is like going to a candy store and deciding between jelly beans, sour-patch watermelon candies and swirl lollipops to get a healthy snack.

It doesn't matter what you choose, you’ll still get fat. Empty calories will prevail. Not to say that candy isn’t fun. Sometimes.

Critics will argue in the world of premium TV, quality shows are everywhere. Fine. Just don’t call taking those shows being independent. Fox is no renegade these days -- although many media historians may cite the network’s early years as such.

Many TV network structures -- ABC, NBC and CBS, all with sister TV and movie production studios -- help to keep things financially healthy and diversified in a fast-moving world.

Collier's idea is that while competitors are scaling up -- especially when it comes to producing, owning and selling TV shows to traditional TV and virtual TV distributors worldwide -- Fox gets flexibility in slimming down.

Sure. But does it have flexibility and clout?

Independence as a TV network is great when program suppliers are desperate to sell a glut of quality TV shows. Is that the case right now? It seems many diversified media/TV companies are doing well when it comes to content revenue sales.

Yes, there are lots of producers out there -- and growing with Netflix, Amazon and others. But there are also many more virtual TV networks and TV-centric app platforms looking to buy content, too.

TV networks increasingly need to quickly change and add more premium TV shows, and other content, to pull in TV viewers. They, in turn, are fractionalizing media, with many more options vying for their attention.

Independence is the wrong word. Call it interdependence. 

4 comments about "The New Fox Is Billed As An Independent TV Network - Is It?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 12, 2019 at 9:50 a.m.

    Wayne, actually Fox began as a network hosted almost exclusively by independent stations and one of its benefits to the "affiliates" was allowing---even encouraging ---them to promote themselves as "Fox affiliates" just as the ABC/CBS and NBC outlets had done for decades. Compared to rival indies this was a nice promotional upgrade. In reality, however, Fox only offered a limited primetime schedule, plus weekday kid shows--- long abandoned---- and sports while its "affiliates" programmed most of their time the usual indie way---with local news, syndicated off-network dramas and sitcoms and, in some cases, home team sports coverage. I suspect that this is what they really mean by "independence"---pandering to their stations, which, I would say is an understandable thing to do.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited replied, August 12, 2019 at 3 p.m.

    They started with 5 prime time shows: One starred Chuck Conners hunting werewolves with silver bullets, The President starring Patty Duke and George C. Scott, one they had to scrap because the star, Dean Martin Jr was killed in a plane accident, one was a relationship show - she was a teacher, Married with Children, and my memory is failing me about another. There still was the ever present Wrestling, Movies, "mindless TV shows" as the schools used to call them and whatever inexpensive syndicated shows they could pick up. I sold for an indie and turned Fox during the transistion. 

  3. David Scardino from TV & Film Content Development, August 13, 2019 at 2:28 p.m.

    My Fall '87 sked also has "21 Jump Street," "Tracy Ullman" "Women in Prison" "New Adventures of Beans Baxter" and "Second Chance." The network was on two nights: Saturdays and Sundays. Ah, the good old days...!

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 13, 2019 at 5:35 p.m.

    And the real reason why Fox started its network and was soon followed by Warner Brothers and Paramount with their versions was their fear that with the profit sharing deals with proiducers ban of 1971 lifted, that they---the movie companies---might be suht out of first run primetime new program development, with its increasingly profitable syndication rerun back end. So they attempted to create their own networks, using independent stations as their distributors, in order to have access to TV ad dollars which would fund new shows they might develop. Interestingly, their fears proved unfounded as the big three continued to buy shows from the movie studios and cut profit sharing deals with them while their indie station networks weren't really profitable affairs---or minimally so.

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