Fox Upfronts Takeaways: Avoiding An Advertising Death Spiral, Animation, Finding The Next ‘Glee’ & Tom Brady

Fox gave a particularly animated Upfronts presentation this year.

The network used its virtual event for ad buyers to tout its subscription-less services. Kicking off with an amusing video that featured Leslie Jordan talking to a slew of Fox stars such as Rob Lowe (as well as some former stars such as 24’s Kiefer Sutherland) and Charlie Collier, CEO of Fox Entertainment getting a ride from You Bet Your Life host Jay Leno, the presentation moved into a Bento Box-animated portion (see above).

Collier and his team, sometimes under the cover of cartoon, gently slammed the other networks and media conglomerates for the arms race in the subscription video on demand world, highlighting that this is a space that isn’t kind to advertisers.

Joking about Max Plus syndrome, having your ads play in a death spiral on Peacock’s Punky Brewster and CBS EyeQ, Collier touted how they were the most ad-friendly of the bunch (and this was before anyone even knew about the WarnerMedia and Discovery tie up).

But before Charlie Collier, CEO of Fox Entertainment, talked up its fall linear schedule, which included a new Gordon Ramsay series, a new competition series and a slew of renewals, and AVOD service Tubi, which is itself getting into original programming,  he also allowed a few amusing jabs at his own expense including a moose on The Great North, saying, “If this guy mentions that he oversaw Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead one more time, I’m going to puke.”

Then there was also news about Tom Brady.

100% Ad-Supported

Given it was a presentation designed for advertisers, it was still somewhat surprising quite how much Fox hammered home this message, both for the Fox network and Tubi.

“We’re focused. We believe in broadcast and advertising. Instead of being all things to all people, Fox is doing fewer things and doing them better,” said Collier. “Fox chose to be nimble. Fox chose to be 100% advertiser-supported. Fox chose to build things differently. And we’ve only just begun.”

He said that the network reaches 50M viewers a week and 10M a night, which he said was “roughly two-and-a-half times more than the top SVOD Platforms in the marketplace”.

Collier highlighted its new shows such as Our Kind of People (below) and existing hits such as the 9-1-1 franchise and The Masked Singer. “Broadcast at its best pierces popular culture. It brings into our homes the stories and characters that endure,” he said.

The company also talked up its AVOD platform Tubi, and said that all Fox-owned shows would air on the streamer once they’ve aired on linear. “Fox is bringing you in, not cutting you out,” he said. “Fox fuels Tubi, and Tubi fuels Fox. It’s about Fox’s broad hits and Tubi’s ability to use A.I. and Content intelligence to program deep into viewers’ passions.”

Planning Ahead For Thursday Nights

Fox is giving up Thursday Night Football a year earlier than expected with Amazon taking on the rights. The network is already planning ahead to fill that slot on the schedule with Collier saying, “We’ve been working on trying to bring urgency and spectacle to a night like that.”

The network, which talked up its year-round development process and straight-to-series ordering, has already announced one project for the 2022/23 season, anthology drama Accused, based on the British scripted series. Although the show, which comes from Howard Gordon, Alex Gansa and David Shore, isn’t necessarily for Thursday night, it does highlight how the network is looking a little further down the line than usual.

The Big Leap – The New Glee?

Fox evidently believes that its upcoming drama The Big Leap is the new Glee. “The Big Leap builds on the Fox legacy of music inspired series,” said Collier. “Everyone on our team feels like they did when Fox launched Glee, they’re really excited.”

The Big Leap, which comes from Liz Heldens, Jason Winer and Sue Naegle, revolves around a group of diverse, down-on-their-luck characters attempting to change their lives by participating in a potentially life-ruining reality dance show that builds to a live production of Swan Lake. Inspired by UK reality series Big Ballet, the series stars Scott Foley, Teri Polo and newcomer Simone Recasner. “Watching our diverse ensemble, I guarantee you’ll have a smile on your face or a tear in your eye or both,” said Foley.

Our Kind Of People: “Wild Ride” About Class & Race In America

Lee Daniels and Karin Gist turned up at the virtual Fox upfronts to give details about their drama series Our Kind of People. The pair discussed the “wild ride” that the show will take through race and class in America. Gist said that the book that the eries is based on – Lawrence Otis Graham’s Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class – opened a lot of eyes when it was published in the late 90s.

The series takes place in the aspirational world of Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, a historical stronghold where the rich and powerful black elite have come to play for more than 50 years. Morris Chestnut and Yaya DaCosta star.

“It’s going to be a show full of cultural specificity, but also a celebration of black beauty and wealth and a conversation about class and race in America. It’s going to be a wild, fun ride,” she said.

Tasha Smith will direct the first two episodes, reuniting her with the Empire and Star team. Daniels said that the show will be “fun” and “soapy”. “We’re not just saying something culturally, we’re doing something culturally,” he added.

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