Now that Fox has officially abandoned kids' programming after dropping its time-buy agreement with TV producer 4Kids Entertainment, its next step seems less about programming than about plugging a
Fox is going with all advertising on Saturday mornings, becoming the first broadcast network to regularly schedule infomercials
Now, the question is whether Fox can sell $20 million per year
of Perfect Push-up, real estate software, or ProActiv skin cleaner infomercials to make up the difference. That's the number Fox will be looking at, because it's what 4Kids Entertainment
paid annually to run kids' programming over the network.
Fox, which had been in a legal tussle with 4Kids over payment, has settled with the company, and Fox now regains ownership of
the Saturday morning 8 a.m. to noon time block. It will give two of the four hours back to its affiliate stations to program.
There's also the issue of weak advertising sales for
kids' programs. Executives at 4Kids have already told Wall Street investors the advertising marketplace will be a tough, tough business over the next several quarters. 4Kids blamed Fox for not
keeping stations in line, delivering under 90% of the Fox network's TV households, thus selling lower-priced spots to advertisers.
For years stations and cable networks have made
infomercial deals. The fact that Fox is now running regularly scheduled infomercials says either that 1) Fox can't get another programmer to make a similar time buy, or 2) that it won't go
back to producing shows because it's not viable financially.
Given CW's recently abandoned $15 million time buy deal with Media Rights Capital, who after only three months failed to
garner any acceptable ratings on Sunday nights, perhaps we have entered new territory, one where networks look not just for big marketers to save the day -- but medium-sized advertisers, those
who do infomercials.
Given the facts that TV ratings are falling and the recession seems to be sinking its teeth into the U.S. economy, it doesn't seems much of a surprise that some
networks may be looking to dramatically change their prime-time picture.
Will we see the day when regularly scheduled time buys -- or, gasp, infomercials -- come to network programming in
prime time on a regular basis?
It might mean buying an Awesome Auger to save your favorite network.