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Interview with FOX Executives 5/15/17
FBC PUBLICITY: The Fox 2017
Programming Presentation Call
May 15, 2017/8:30 a.m. EDT
Dana Walden/Gary Newman: Chairmen &
CEOs, Fox Television Group
Joe Marchese: President,
Advertising Revenue, Fox Networks Group
President, COO & Executive Producer, FOX Sports
Madden: President, Entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Co.
Dan Harrison: Executive Vice President, Strategic Program
Planning, Fox Broadcasting Co.
Shannon Ryan: Executive
Vice President, Marketing & Communications, Fox Television
Moderator Ladies and
gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the FOX
2017 Programming Presentation Call. At this time, all
participants are in a listen-only mode. Later, we will
conduct a question and answer session, and instructions will
be given at that time. [Operator instructions]. As a
reminder, this conference is being recorded.
now like to turn the conference over to your host, Shannon
Ryan. Please go ahead.
Shannon Hi. Thank so much,
Terry. Happy Monday, everyone. I know it’s a super busy week
for all of you, so thanks for joining us so early this
morning. We know it’s really early on the West Coast, so
thanks to you guys for everyone who’s on the call.
We just announced our 2017/18 schedule, and this morning our
Chairman and CEOs, Dana Walden and Gary Newman, are here
with some of our other executives to take your questions.
But before we get started, just a few notes. Today’s press
release and our program descriptions and photos are
available for download on the FOX site, foxflash.com. The
trailer for THE GIFTED is also available on FoxFlash, should
you need that, and trailers from all our other shows will be
available after our presentation later this afternoon around
5:15. So let’s get started.
Joining us today to talk
about FOX’s new season are Chairmen and CEOs of the Fox
Television Group, Gary Newman and Dana Walden; President of
Advertising Revenue for Fox Networks Group, Joe Marchese;
President, COO and Executive Producer of Fox Sports, Eric
Shanks; Fox President of Entertainment, David Madden; and
Fox Executive Vice President of Strategic Program Planning,
With that, I’m going to throw it over
Dana Walden Great. Thanks, Shannon. Good
morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us today. I know as
Shannon just said, you’ve seen our schedule. It’s going to
be a very busy day for everyone, so let’s just get started.
I’m going to briefly go over our topline strategy and our
fall lineup and then Gary’s going to take you through
This season, we have 5 of the top 15 new
shows, LETHAL WEAPON, STAR, THE MICK, 24: LEGACY and PRISON
BREAK, more than any other network. With the help of the
Super Bowl and World Series, we ended up No. 2 for the
season with our most-watched primetime in three years. The
past few seasons were about building a foundation of strong
new shows, EMPIRE, GOTHAM, LUCIFER, THE MICK, and LETHAL
WEAPON, and that success has allowed us to focus more next
season on building stronger nights and creating better
circulation across our schedule.
Next season we have
17 returning series, that’s more than we’ve had in a decade,
and they’ll be joined by six distinctive new shows. As
you’ll see from our schedule, there’s a clear strategy for
every night. Mondays have always been a great night for big,
bold dramas on Fox, 24, PRISON BREAK, LUCIFER and GOTHAM,
shows that have greatly benefitted from the promotional
platform of Sunday football.
This year we’re taking
LUCIFER, which, last fall, grew its time period by 58%, and
are going to put it at 8:00 as our lead-in to the new family
adventure series, THE GIFTED. This is our first Marvel show.
It comes from writer Matt Nix and director Bryan Singer.
It’s a perfect fit for FOX. It’s big. It’s cinematic and
commercial and it tells the emotional story of a family on
the run when they learn their children have mutant powers.
THE GIFTED will greatly benefit from LUCIFER, but also has
multiple entry points of its own, families, genre viewers
and Marvel fans.
Then on Tuesday, we’re looking at
LETHAL WEAPON. It was a self-starter for us, leading into
EMPIRE on Wednesdays this season. It performed well all
year, even through the EMPIRE bridge. It’s our No. 2 show
after EMPIRE and averages 11 million viewers. We’re going to
be moving it to Tuesday at 8:00 to kick off the night and to
platform THE MICK. We’re really big believers in THE MICK.
It’s a bold concept and Kaitlin Olson has just been amazing.
She’s a comedic force. It’s a show that got funnier every
episode and we really see enormous potential in it. It takes
comedy a while these days to find its audience, so we’re
going to be putting everything we can behind this show.
Having LETHAL WEAPON at 8:00, we’ll deliver a big audience
and with BROOKLYN NINE-NINE immediately following, we’ll
have a great night of action and comedy.
Wednesdays, we’re reuniting EMPIRE and STAR, two great
music-infused shows that are perfectly matched tonally and
thematically. This is another example of us using our
strongest shows to strengthen a young show we believe in.
EMPIRE is the No. 3 show on broadcast. It’s the No. 2 drama
and delivers the best live lead-in across all of broadcast.
When we aired these shows together in December, we saw very
strong duplication and reached more than 16 million viewers.
On Thursdays we see an opportunity for growth with
younger men. At 8:00, we’re going to start the night with
another returning favorite, GOTHAM. It held its own against
“Big Bang Theory” and football on Mondays this year, so
we’re going to capitalize on its really loyal male fan base
to feed into Seth MacFarlane’s new show, THE ORVILLE, and
this is really Seth’s passion project. It’s a big, broad,
funny accessible hour. The pilot was directed by Jon Favreau
and Seth has an enormous following. We’re giving THE ORVILLE
a big push out of the gate by launching it after two NFL
doubleheaders, before it moves to Thursday.
Friday, HELL’S KITCHEN and THE EXORCIST perform well
together, so we’re going to keep that night intact. And on
Sunday, football drives a huge audience to FOX, where we’re
the premier destination for young adults, and, this season,
we’re adding one new show to our successful lineup. We think
viewers are going to love it. It’s GHOSTED. It’s got two big
comedy stars at its center, Adam Scott and Craig Robinson.
They’re friends in real life and you can really feel that,
because they have great chemistry. It’s going to air at
8:30, bookended by THE SIMPSONS and FAMILY GUY. Again, it’s
another illustration of scheduling compatible shows to
generate circulation and flow.
Now I’m going to hand
things over to Gary.
Gary Newman Thanks, Dana. Good
morning, everyone. For midseason let’s start with dramas.
We’re excited to have THE X-FILES return for a ten-episode
installment. It was such a great success for us last year,
20 million viewers for its premiere, creating massive
enthusiasm and circulation to our schedule.
have THE RESIDENT. It’s a distinctive medical procedural
that centers on three doctors at different stages of their
careers. It’s a provocative look at the world of medicine.
It rips back the curtain to reveal the truth of what really
happens in hospitals. We’ve been looking for our next hit
medical drama since HOUSE, and think THE RESIDENT can really
9-1-1 is a rapid-fire procedural
drama seen through the eyes of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk,
and stars the amazing Angela Bassett. It looks at the lives
and careers of first responders, the people who put their
lives on the line to save others.
Moving on to
comedy, LA TO VEGAS is a workplace comedy set on a commuter
jet that flies between LA and Vegas each weekend. The
creative pedigree on this show is fantastic; Lon Zimmet,
Steve Levitan, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay are all
executive-producing. It stars Dylan McDermott, who delivers
a performance that will be the surprise of the season.
Lastly, we’ll showcase the seventh and final season of
our beloved comedy, NEW GIRL, from the brilliant Liz
Meriwether. We’re so proud of this show. It’s a
quintessential FOX series and the impact it’s had in our
live-action comedy brand cannot be overstated. So we wanted
to give it, and its loyal fans, the proper sendoff it
On the live musical front, in December,
we’ll air our next event, A CHRISTMAS STORY. It’s based on
the Tony-nominated musical and classic holiday film. We’ve
partnered with GREASE: LIVE and “La La Land” producer Marc
Platt to oversee it, with “La La Land’s” Oscar-winning
songwriting team, Pasek and Paul, handling the music.
In 2018, we’re also working with Marc Platt and the
estate of composer Jonathan Larson on a live adaptation of
the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical RENT. We’ll start casting
both projects soon.
So we’re looking forward to next
season. We have big new shows from some of the best creators
in the business, big stars, big live events and a new
With that, we’re happy to
take the questions.
Moderator Thank you. [Operator
instructions]. Our first question will go to Matt Mitovich
with TV Line. Please go ahead.
Matt Good morning,
everybody. Just looking for a status on the pilot LINDA FROM
HR, as well as the futures of 24 and SCREAM QUEENS.
Gary Hi, Matt. LINDA FROM HR is definitely still in
consideration. When we get back to L.A. we’re going to meet
on several of our pilots. We had a great crop of pilots this
season. Choosing between them was difficult and LINDA FROM
HR had a great star at the center in Lauren Graham. So we
will be talking about that when we get back.
LEGACY, we were so happy with the creative on that show. We
think Corey Hawkins did a great job. Replacing Jack Bauer
was no easy feat and he really stepped up on it. As you
probably know, Corey is on Broadway right now,
Tony-nominated for his role in “Six Degrees of Separation,”
so his schedule wouldn’t really allow us to consider the
show for the fall. So it’s very much still in the mix. It’s
another show we intend to talk about when we get back to Los
Angeles with the showrunners.
Finally on SCREAM
QUEENS, SCREAM QUEENS was an anthological series. Ryan told
the story of a group of characters he created. Over the
course of the two seasons, it feels as if it was a complete
story. We have no plans at this point to go back there and
tell more stories. So we won’t be seeing SCREAM QUEENS this
Matt Thank you.
Moderator Next we’ll
go to the line of Gary Levin with USA Today. Please go
Gary L. So what about PRISON BREAK? Is that
something you would continue, or do you feel like that was
just another limited series and that’s the end of it?
Dana Hi, Gary. Yes, we would definitely consider doing
more episodes of PRISON BREAK. There’s nothing in the works
right now. Really what prompted us to do this last
installment was Paul Scheuring coming in to us with a great
take on where these characters are and what a season might
look like. I know they’re thinking about it. It’s definitely
not something we want to do every season. We want to make it
special. So at the point they come to us with another idea,
it will be seriously considered. We actually loved this
season and the characters are beloved.
Gary L. Okay.
So just to clarify, 24 nor PRISON BREAK, neither one has
been canceled, but you haven’t committed to doing more yet.
Dana The only difference I would say is PRISON BREAK
was announced as an event series. We didn’t bring it back
intending to do consecutive seasons. On 24, Howard Gordon
has spent the year in Spain with his family. He was involved
at the beginning, and in launching the show, but we haven’t
had the opportunity to sit down with him and talk about what
another season would look like for him. So, that combined
with Corey being unavailable at the beginning of the season,
just made it clear to us that there was no reason to rush.
Again, we weren’t considering it for fall because of Corey’s
Gary L. Okay. Thanks, Dana.
Next we’ll go to the line of John Ourand with Sports
Business Journal. Please go ahead.
John Hi. I have
an NFL question. It’s no secret that ratings were down last
season. What are you doing to try to get that turned around?
Is there anything you can do with the NFL to try to get
those ratings going the other way?
Eric Shanks Hi,
John. Thanks for having a sports question. It gives me a
reason to be here.
John I’m here for you, Eric.
Eric I think that the league clearly got almost all the
partners off to a really strong start. If you look at our
first six weeks, pretty tremendous. We’ve never had double
headers in week one and two to start off the season before.
They placed what was the most popular game of last season,
Green Bay/Dallas into week five. So we feel really good
about the schedule getting off to a great start.
Post-election last year, the league-wide ratings were
actually flat, so it kind of rebounded by double-digit
percentage points post-election. So I think there’s no doubt
that the NFL ratings are going to turn around and I think
FOX, in particular, has great strength early in the season
and probably our best double-header schedule we’ve ever
Moderator Next we’ll go to the line of Michael
Schneider with IndieWire. Please go ahead.
Hi, everyone. Hi, Gary and Dana. Good morning. Both of you
have been on the record in the past saying that you thought
it was a little too soon to bring back “American Idol,” but,
of course, the franchise was brought back to market anyway.
I know you kicked the tires. Talk about that and ultimately
your feelings on a franchise that meant so much to FOX
ending up on another network.
Dana There are a lot
of questions there, Mike.
It’s obviously a tough one for us. We loved “American Idol.”
It’s so connected to the FOX brand and there was a
tremendous amount of success for everyone on this show for
15 years. So yes, it feels bad knowing it’s coming back on
another network. I would say it was a bit of a complicated
process over the past year, trying to figure out whether we
were interested or not. We sat down with Fremantle just a
month or two after the end of the show and they were
determined to get this show back on the air as quickly as
The ratings bounced back a little bit in
the final season. We spent about $25 million sending a clear
and persistent message that it was the Farewell Season and
fans responded and the ratings ticked back up. It felt to us
sitting in those initial meetings with Fremantle like it
would be extremely fraudulent to bring the show back
quickly, that our fans would not appreciate being told one
thing and then have the show brought back right away. We and
Fremantle just had very different points of view.
The last conversations that we had with them, frankly,
before we decided to declare it the Farewell Season, were
about the fact that the ratings over the four years prior to
the final season had dropped almost 70%. There was clearly a
ratings trend. It was not going in the right direction. The
network was losing an enormous amount of money and we had
asked them if they could make trims. They felt, which is
very much their right, that they didn’t want to take
significant trims. They didn’t want to try to test out a new
panel. They felt it took a long time to find the chemistry
that existed with Jen and Harry and Keith. They ultimately
said to us they would rather rest the show after this season
than make any changes and try out a different panel and we
respected that. That’s when we decided to call it the
So after those initial
conversations, we heard pretty quickly that they were in
conversations with NBC, which, actually, made sense to us,
because that gave them access to Simon Cowell. I think the
show missed Simon towards the end of its life on FOX. They
have a deal with Jennifer Lopez, as well, and so that made
sense to us, but it really made us focus on the fact that,
notwithstanding we thought it was too early to bring the
show back, and all of our research and all of our fan forums
supported that notion.
We did not see the fan
excitement and enthusiasm for the show to come back that
Fremantle did. We just had a different set of facts. But
contemplating losing “Idol” and having it go to another
network, we did make an offer. Fremantle was definitely not
interested. There were definitely conversations about how
“Idol” might work with Fremantle’s other show “America’s Got
Talent” over at NBC, and ultimately that fell apart.
We really believe that, over time, whatever Fremantle’s
issues were with us or the fact that we didn’t want to bring
it back so early, would be resolved, because they seemed
committed, as well, to resting the show.
think probably all of you saw RTL’s earnings call last week.
They lost revenue from not having this show on in the U.S.
That’s meaningful, when you’re running a public company.
And, all of a sudden we were made aware of conversations
with ABC to bring the show back in ’18, which again, that
will put it off the air for one season. We again felt like
this is way too soon. We tried to engage Fremantle in
conversations about bringing it back in ’20, which is when
we thought would be an appropriate amount of time off the
air and give the creators and the producers the opportunity
to make some changes to present the next generation of
“Idol” and they just weren’t interested in it. At that
point, they had made a determination that they wanted it
back on the air and they thought ABC was a good opportunity.
Moderator Thank you. Next we’ll go to the line of
Joe Adalian with Vulture. Please go ahead.
Joe Hi. I
guess the next question would be, right now, FOX doesn’t
have a big tent-pole reality franchise. It’s the one thing
that you’re lacking that—other than Gordon Ramsay, which I
should give him credit. He does very well and MASTERCHEF
JUNIOR has certainly performed well doing that multi-night
thing that other networks seem to be able to do and really
help fill some holes.
That leaves out there two
possibilities, if you guys wanted to go in the music space,
would be to create your own franchise, or possibly take
another stab at “The X Factor,” which does still have Simon
Cowell involved. Is “The X Factor” something that you’ve
considered? Are you considering another big music reality
franchise? Do you think the music reality franchise is sort
of been there/done that, let’s try to find something else?
Gary I think FOX is probably known for a music brand
more so than other networks, with shows like EMPIRE, STAR,
even going back to GLEE. “The X Factor” was on FOX for a
couple of seasons and there are no discussions at this point
about bringing it back. We think we can grow our unscripted
Of course, you mentioned Gordon, but Gordon
does an amazing job for us. He’s a great partner and we’re
very excited about his new show this summer, THE F WORD WITH
GORDON RAMSAY. We’d like to also expand our brand beyond
that. We brought in a new head of unscripted a few months
ago, Rob Wade, who spent a number of years running “Dancing
With The Stars” and has a great deal of experience on a
number of shows both here and in the U.K., and
executive-produced “The X Factor” here in the U.S., as well.
So we’re going to be looking at all forms of unscripted.
Music is certainly one of the ones we’re looking at.
Instead of looking back, and looking at a show that’s been
on the air before, we think it’s important to find something
that feels new and distinctive and moves that genre forward,
and that’s going to be our focus in the music space.
Joe Thank you.
Moderator Next we’ll go the line
of Caryn Robbins with BroadwayWorld. Please go ahead.
Caryn Yes, hi. I had a question about RENT. Obviously,
the musical deals with mature themes and contains profanity.
I was just wondering if you had plans as to how you will
make it more family-friendly. I know there is a special
edition of the show performed in high school. Is that
possibly what you will be presenting?
there is that format of the show. We really haven’t spoken
yet specifically about what the show will be. We really just
closed our rights about a week ago. We’ve had conversations
with Marc Platt. I will tell you that both of my teenage
daughters, this is their favorite show. Again, they have
seen it through high school productions. I know there is a
version of this show that will pay tribute to Jonathan
Larson, and will be true to the themes of the show. We’ve
certainly covered similar themes in shows that we’ve
presented over the years. We’re not going to shy away from
it, but it’s going to be something that is appropriate for
Caryn Terrific. Thank you.
Moderator Next we’ll go to the line of Dominic Patten with
Deadline Hollywood. Please go ahead.
Dominic Just a
follow up, guys, to the previous question about “American
Idol.” So you guys did consider a 2020 reboot of the show
and you saw that as being significantly different from how
the show was when it departed last season?
saw ’20 as being a respectful amount of time to wait in
between rebooting “Idol” for fans who heard our message
clearly that we presented a farewell season. So I wouldn’t
say we discussed radical changes to the format, because,
honestly, Fremantle does not want to change that show and
perhaps they shouldn’t. They have a very clear vision of the
strengths of the show and they are the producers.
don’t know ultimately where Simon Fuller came into the
picture in terms of conversations about altering the format
that he created, but our conversations were more about
what’s a respectful amount of time and less about
specifically what will that show look like.
Moderator Next we’ll
go the line of Mike Hughes with TV America. Please go ahead.
Mike Yes. Putting EMPIRE and STAR on the same night
is really logical, but I think the thing holding it back
before was neither one had that many episodes. There was
only like 16 episodes or something like that. How are you
going to do it this year? How many episodes of each one? And
will it just be part of the season or will it be two
mini-seasons? How will you work it?
Gary We’re going
to have 18 episodes of each series this year. As we’ve done
the last couple seasons, there will be a break at
mid-season. These shows, as you can imagine, are really
challenging to produce. In addition to normal TV production,
you’re doing an entire music production that is time
consuming. So we will be on right through the fall with
originals and then take a break and come back in March and
run out the balance of the season on both shows.
Mike Okay. Thanks.
instructions]. We’ll go to the line of Brian Steinberg with
Variety. Please go ahead.
Brian Good morning, folks.
Hope you’re all doing well. This year we’re hearing a lot
about a need for new measurement and new kinds of ratings.
I’m wondering how FOX feels about these total content
measures from Nielsen and things we’re hearing from various
media buying agencies. Where do you guys see ratings falling
out as this season kind of moves along in terms of what
people want and how you should be reporting it?
Marchese Well I can speak to the total content ratings. We
have obviously withheld looking at bringing Nielsen into
that, because we weren’t comfortable with the measurement
comparisons between television and digital. We do believe
that because our stories are platform agnostic, our
measurement should be platform agnostic, but it has to be on
equal footing. So we’ll be looking at alternatives.
Gary Just to be clear, that was Joe Marchese.
Cynthia It’s Cynthia.
Dana Hello, Cynthia.
Cynthia Sorry. We’re
sitting here in the same office listening to you on the
speaker. I’m shoving in a second question. Couldn’t help but
notice that all of your series orders come from 20th Century
Fox TV. There’s obviously been a push not just at FOX, but
other networks, for ownership and controlling the content
that’s on your air. Can you talk about that? Was it kind of
an organic coincidence or was it a strategy this year?
Gary I wouldn’t call it organic coincidence, but it is
clear if you look across our industry, the media companies
are more and more focused on vertical integration and owning
the shows they have on their networks. It’s understandable.
The economics are very challenging for networks and having
the revenue streams that a studio can provide are important
to make sense out of these shows.
That being said,
finding hit television programs is incredibly challenging,
probably more so now with the 500+ scripted series that are
being produced across all platforms, than it’s ever been
before. So we continue to be open to content from any
source. This year, it isn’t surprising that our series
orders came from our studio. Most of our pilots, all but
one, came from the studio.
If you take a step
further back than that to the script development, the
majority of our script development came from our studio, and
that really was organic. This was, as I said, a tough year
on developing programs because of how busy writers were
working on all of those programs that are in production. So
there was actually less script development and certainly
less quality script development than I think we had seen in
a number of years.
That being said, we put some
great projects into development. When it comes to ordering
pilots we are not looking at the name of the studio on the
front page of a script. We’re really looking for what we
think gives us the best chance to develop projects that can
ultimately become successful series. This year that was the
ones that came from 20th Century Fox Television.
Dana I will add, Cynthia, though, from the studio side of
our business and just having our studio hats on, it is more
important than ever to us right now that we continue to be
the home to the best creators in the business, and to able
to do that you have to offer creative freedom. You can’t
tell Dan Fogelman, Ryan Murphy, Seth MacFarlane, Liz
Meriwether, Lee Daniels, you can only develop for one
I think part of the attraction to our
studio is that we look at each of the projects and we try
and make a determination about where they can be their best
version, and I think that’s why you see we have “This Is Us”
on NBC, “Modern Family” on ABC, “Life in Pieces” at CBS, a
variety of other shows at ABC and throughout cable. It
remains an important part of our business, because of how
important those creators are to us. So we are going to
continue developing for outside networks. as well as for
Moderator Our last question will be from
Ellen Gray with Philadelphia Enquirer & Daily News. Please
Ellen Hi. More than ever it’s hard to tell
what’s canceled because things might come back. What would
be, for instance, a respectful time if you were to bring
back a special event of “Bones?” I mean, just as an example.
Dana “Bones” is a good example. There are so many
factors that go into whether you can bring a show back. One
right now would be that David Boreanaz is on a show that was
just ordered by CBS. So as long as that show is in
production, there’s probably no chance of a “Bones” reunion.
But we have used, as sort of a guiding light of
which shows to bring back, which great creators have come in
to us with great new stories to tell about those characters.
So if Hart Hanson or Stephen Nathan came in to us at some
point over the next few years with a compelling reason to
revisit the world of “Bones,” we would probably do it.
Ellen But you don’t really think of shows as being
Dana It’s just a case-by-case
basis. There are some shows—and I just can’t think of them
right now—that I would say RIP, they’re probably gone
forever. When you look at our roster of shows at the studio,
we’ve been in business with so many of these creators for
such a long time. These shows are so long-running, and
they’ve had the opportunity, through streaming services, to
be introduced to an entirely new generation of viewers. So
that does make it feel like an event, reuniting characters
from a very long-running show.
I would say “How I
Met Your Mother,” one of the greatest shows ever in our
library at the studio, at some point I would hope we will
have the opportunity to reunite those characters and tell
new stories, if Craig and Carter had the desire to do that.
It’s not every show, but a beloved show that is still being
consumed all over the world, that’s an interesting
opportunity for us.
Moderator Ladies and gentlemen,
that does conclude your conference call for today. Thank you
for using AT&T Executive TeleConference Service. You may now
Shannon Thanks so much.
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