The ‘new' Fox predicts 82% of live viewership in fall midst of Comcast/Disney bidding war

Fox announced a reliance on sports, unscripted competitions and live content to draw viewers, and appeal to Disney and Comcast. / Fox Broadcasting

Fox announced a slimmed-down lineup during its Upfront that will draw a predicted 82% live viewership for the fall season.

Joe Marchese, Fox’s president of advertising revenue announced a new group of over 15 custom ad buys at the event, from show-specific offerings like a Diddy-curated block of commercials during singing competition The Four, to minute-long ‘JAZ Pods’ where two 30-second spots get placed (in 'just the A and Z positions') to air in lieu of longer commercial blocks. These pods have been selected for Fox’s animated comedies and sports telecasts.

Historically-featuring the smallest primetime block in the broadcast space, Fox’s win of the coveted Thursday Night Football for the next five years meant it needed to cut real estate and focus on what will bring the network consistent ratings draws for an audience it considered to be the youngest in its competitive set of ABC, NBC and CBS. As a result, Fox shed some of its programming that drew middling audiences, like the police comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which quickly found its home with NBC less than two days later.

All efforts for the network had been instead focused on further streamlining to accomodate formats that have delivered those live viewership numbers: live sports, unscripted series, animated comedies, and a set of high-performing dramas that include musical dramas Star and Empire and more recent procedurals 911 and medical drama The Resident. Additional programming had included a live version of the musical Rent, exclusive coverage of the Fifa World Cup, NCAA college football coverage, and what looked to be upwards of three NFL games a week.

The selection of programming seemed to be an attempt to draw in audiences to event-based live and unscripted programming for broader demographics, which could add appeal to both potential suitors and quell the anxieties of brands who are still reliant on current Nielsen ratings as a primary factor for ad buys.

Off the heels of promising digital newfronts and a Drum Live event that sparked conversation on where experts saw the future of content on linear and traditional platforms heading, this week’s traditional Upfronts looked to feature two companies slugging it out for 21st Century Fox and its properties, plus UK broadcaster Sky. Fox, regardless of outcome or future parent company, has shaped itself to accomodate whatever its future holds.

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