Fox officials admitted Monday that the Writers Guild of America strike -- which began May 2 -- is causing delays and disruptions to its fall premiere plans, as it is across the TV business.
In a telephone news conference held Monday morning in advance of the Fox Upfront Monday afternoon, they acknowledged the challenges, but also expressed confidence in their contingency plans.
They said they are applying some of what they learned when similar disruptions arose suddenly at the onset of the pandemic shutdowns in 2020.
“We’ve taken all our learnings from the shutdown and applied this to our everyday course of business, which will benefit us greatly as we work through the uncertainty of the strike,” said Allison Wallach, president of unscripted programming for Fox Entertainment.
“Our development slate is robust and we are strategically prepared to keep our pipeline full of originals. Fortunately, we have strong unscripted brands and franchises,” she said, mentioning, among others, the food-and-restaurant shows of Gordon Ramsay (pictured above in “Hell’s Kitchen”).
However, with uncertainty stemming from delayed production schedules, Fox said that -- in a break with tradition -- it will not be announcing a fall prime-time schedule this week.
“Rather than announce a schedule today that we may not be able to meet this fall, we will hold back until we have a better handle on what programming will be available to us and when,” said Dan Harrison, executive vice president of program planning and content strategy for Fox Entertainment.
He and other officials in the news conference said with certainty that they will have at least some original content ready for fall -- including unscripted series and especially the network’s iconic animated shows.
Harrison explained that the animated series’ extraordinary long lead times means that the network has new episodes to spare for airing this fall.
“Fox will have original entertainment in the fall and it will be scheduled in coherent nights -- broad-appeal content that can be marketed clearly to viewers with strong franchises and new programs available for advertisers,” Harrison said.
“This is the core of the broadcast scheduling, marketing and sales mission. And Fox will meet it,” he said.
When a reporter pointed out that other networks this week, including NBC on Monday, are including prime-time lineups in their new-show announcements, Fox’s Marianne Gambelli, president of advertising sales, marketing and brand partnerships for Fox Corp., was skeptical.
“Even though our competitors have announced their schedules, those schedules are really not etched in stone, either, so I think that the lineups are all kind of suspect a little bit in that none of the schedules that anybody is presenting are going happen with the strike,” she said.
“Our fall is also much more reliant on sports, which won’t be impacted,” she pointed out. In addition to airing part of next fall’s Major League Baseball playoffs, Fox will be the home of the World Series.
New shows announced Monday by Fox included “Snake Oil,” a game show from producer Will Arnett and hosted by David Spade that is kind of a cross between “Shark Tank” and “To Tell the Truth” in which contestants will try to guess from new-product presentations which ones are real or fake.
Two new animated series were also announced, one of which, “Krapopolis” -- from “Rick and Morty” co-creator Dan Harmon -- was first announced in 2021.
It was positioned then, and also a year ago, as “the first-ever animated series curated entirely on the blockchain.
“The company will launch a dedicated marketplace for ‘Krapopolis’ that will curate and sell digital goods, ranging from NFTs of one-of-a-kind character and background art and GIFs, as well as tokens that provide exclusive social experiences to engage and reward super fans,” the company said.
On Monday, the company said the plan remains the same, only this time, “Krapopolis” is ready to air. Indeed, the web site where fans can register to participate has been up and running for a while now.
“Yes, Krapopolis.com will continue,” a Fox spokesman told MediaPost in an email. "Blockchain Creative Labs has done a good job at building a community of early fans before it launches.”