Fox Upfront addresses ad dominance and a slate of new and returning shows and sports

Gordon Ramsay touts new show on Fox

For all its recent troubles at Fox News, the Fox Upfront on Monday afternoon in New York didn’t touch on the ouster of and huge payment to Bill O’Reilly or the controversy surrounding former Fox News chief Roger Ailes. For good reason, since the flashy, and sometimes cringe-worthy, presentation was about the strength of its sports and entertainment programming, and about appealing to the almighty dollar.

Joe Marchese, president of advertising revenue for Fox Networks Group, came on first and said he had “one heck of a third day at work” since he recently started his job. But he was there to sell advertisers on the power of Fox programming and did just that.

With a quick joke demonstration about how having the sound on is the more effective way to deliver commercials – by muting his microphone – Marchese launched into how 21st Century Fox and its networks, which include Fox Broadcasting, FX, Fox Sports 1 and others, will “no longer sell any standard ads” for digital and on-demand content, saying it gives a signal that there are varied expectations on how people experience ads depending on how they watch. This new way will bring better attention and focus to the ads on the digital streams.

Marchese went on to talk about advertising being a leader because the “greatest storytellers in the world want to reach the greatest audience” and that audience can be found on ad-supported platforms like Fox, which boasts great numbers.

Moat, which Oracle recently acquired to gain its digital measurement cloud services, will be used by Fox, which will guarantee the video quality score, or the number of viewers that its ads will reach on both TV and digital platforms.

“Once we focus on metrics that matter we can focus on (material) that matters,” he said.

Marchese also announced the company’s Up/Lift system to monitor audiences automatically with linear creative decisions. Using algorithms, data and sentiment, the Up/Lift system could monitor the audience for a football game earlier in the day, then tell an auto company what ad would be most effective later in the day during another football broadcast.

With these new tools, Marchese said that advertisers would get the “greatest return on every dollar spent”.

But, of course, there has to be good content to bring in quality advertisers, which is why Fox led with sports. Play caller Joe Buck talked about the excitement of the World Series, the immediacy of live football, and announced that Fox will now be the primary home for Big 10 college football. He said that the network wants advertisers to “own the fall” with the most eyes on its sports programming during that season.

After Alex Rodriguez was brought out to announce a new baseball show with Pete Rose and Frank Thomas, things got a little weird.

To the tune of Bruno Mars’ song ‘24k Magic’ a pseudo hip-hop troupe of old athletes and broadcasters lip synching “24 seasons still at number one” was more than uncomfortable. Troy Aikman and Jimmy Johnson – one of the gold chain-wearing rapper/dancers – then announced the upcoming football season with canned jokes and unfunny banter, followed by Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh doing a bit about wanting to be on MasterChef Jr. and cheerleaders throwing out Fox swag to the audience.

Marchese, thankfully, came out after that to bring some numbers to the table, including that Fox delivers five times the ad minutes as social and other networks. Plus, he touted the network as having the most social interactions with 650,000 per episode, plus 90% social love, the strongest sentiment and highest commercial retention.

“With on-demand environments, any time is prime time. At Fox, our immersive stories and bold characters are platform agnostic,” he said, repeating that Fox knows how to compete and combine with digital and social platforms.

Brand safe content came up as an issue several times, with Marchese repeating that it is one of the safest platforms for brands.

Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane came on to solidify that point, crooning a slightly bawdy song about the upcoming entertainment lineup and ad sales. He poked fun at YouTube’s ads being shown alongside “Isis vids” before introducing (in the only recognition of the Fox News lawsuits) “the only two people at Fox not being sued.”

On came Gary Newman and Dana Walden, Fox TV Group chairmen, to bring it back to entertainment. They announced the summer and fall lineups, highlighting several new shows, including MacFarlane and director Jon Favreau’s sci-fi comedy, The Orville, which appears to be a Star Trek spoof about a bumbling captain and a galactic crew.

Another new show being touted was The Gifted, directed by Bryan Singer, who helmed several X-Men movies. Calling it a “sweeping family adventure in the Marvel Universe”, it tells of teens who have mutant powers.

Also featured was Ghosted, with Adam Scott and Craig Robinson, a comedy about two normal guys kidnapped into a paranormal underground, LA to Vegas, by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, featuring Dylan McDermott as a funny pilot on a thankless flight, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck’s new series, 9-1-1, about first responders, and The Resident, a medical drama.

A musical interlude by the casts of Empire and Star, which are being put back-to-back on Wednesday nights, gave way to Gordon Ramsay’s announcement of the unscripted shows, which includes Ramsay’s The F Word cooking competition, Jamie Foxx’s Beat Shazam, which challenges contestants to name songs faster than the Shazam app, and Andy Cohen’s new Love Connection.

It was announced that the X Files is returning for 10 more episodes and that the New Girl will end its run after its seventh season.

The Upfront ended with the announcement of two more live events, off the success of Grease Live. A Christmas Story will go live this December and in 2018, the live musical event Fox has been pursuing for two years – Rent – will be on live television. The cast of the musical was on hand to sing the iconic song, “Seasons of Love”.

Kyle O'Brien

I am a reporter for The Drum covering a wide array of topics but always trying to tell the best stories possible. I am a former west coaster from California and Portland, Oregon, now living in Pennsylvania — with time spent in NYC each week.

I also play saxophone professionally.

All by Kyle