So, looking at Fox over the past few weeks, a few things have come to my attention. It should almost go without saying that the object of any network is to maximize profits while minimizing losses. Much of what I have observed directly correlates with this fact.
First, Netflix is a bigger draw to viewers of television than I thought. The article about Netflix viewing during the second half of the Super Bowl really made it apparent to me just how popular the streaming service is. I had no idea that literally hundreds of thousands of people would tune out of one of the biggest media events of the year for a few episodes of their favorite show, or a movie on Netflix. It’s clear that networks will have to find some way to work with or compete against Netflix in order to regain their footing during the primetime hours.
Sweeps week is a big thing. I didn’t realize just how many shows get canceled. I see a ton of ads on Hulu/cable for The X Factor, which led me to believe it was pretty popular. Hearing it was canceled recently is pretty surprising. I guess this project made me realize what the turnaround rate is to get something canceled, and how the ratings system we discussed in class and read about translates into real cancellations and new pilots.
Speaking of new shows, I never realized just how many shows are constantly being pitched/produced at a time! Fox is clearly doing their best to put out a vast array of diverse and engaging material for viewers. It’s really interesting to see how ratings help influence new shows or kill off old ones.
Finally, stunt programming is BIG. I knew a lot of people watched the Super Bowl each year, but seeing numbers is mind-boggling. The fact that the network I was covering had the superbowl was more luck than anything, and I’m really glad I got the opportunity to see how Fox used the Super Bowl to do things like interviewing the President on national television or put a new show directly afterwards in an attempt to show it off to viewers.
Director/Musician Rob Zombie has teamed up with writer Bret Easton Ellis and Fox to produce a miniseries based on the Manson killings in California in the 1960’s. Zombie says that the series will be done in a new manner, telling the story from different angles, and at points both before and after the killings happened. The project has not officially been greenlit by Fox as of yet.
With the success of “American Horror Story” on FX, it’s clear that Fox has found with a genre that will be successful with a number of viewers. With a historical story full of so much material like the Manson murders, it’s easy to see how this could potentially be really big. Similar historical projects such as “Hatfields & McCoys” on the History Channel have been popular, so why not this show? There’s plenty of pop culture/counter culture surrounding interest with these murders, so why not capitalize on it? Rob Zombie is an experienced and award-winning director, and well known within the horror community as a historical buff when it comes to the subject of the Manson killings.
Littleton, Cynthia. “Bret Easton Ellis, Rob Zombie Team on Manson Murders Project for Fox.” Variety, 27 February, 2014. http://variety.com/2014/tv/news/bret-easton-ellis-rob-zombie-team-on-manson-murders-project-for-fox-exclusive-1201122838/
Lee Daniels, writer of recent film “The Butler,” has recruited actor Terrence Howard to star in his upcoming hip-hop-themed drama pilot, “Empire.” It is currently listed as “in development” and not much is known about the show at this point.
This move is big for Fox for one main reason. Much of its lineup of shows is, for lack of a better word, white. Looking at Fox’s stable of shows; Glee, Hell’s Kitchen, Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers, Bones, New Girl, etc., all one seeis is a plethora shows with white male/female protagonists. The fact that Fox is starting a new show with a hip-hop focus and a major black writer and an award-winning black actor says one thing: Fox wants to diversify its viewer base and target a show at the black demographic.
Friedlander, Whitney. “Terrence Howard to Lead Lee Daniels’ Hip-Hop Drama Pilot for Fox.” Variety, 19 February, 2014. http://variety.com/2014/tv/news/terrence-howard-to-lead-lee-daniels-hip-hop-drama-pilot-for-fox-1201112641/
Variety reports that after three seasons of heavily-declining ratings, the Fox show ‘The X Factor’, an American Idol-esque singing competition reality show, will be canceled, and judge Simon Cowell will return to the United Kingdom to judge the UK version of the show.
We’ve discussed in class that this time of year is when a lot of shows get canceled due to ratings, and this is a perfect example. The X Factor has lagged behind American Idol, The Voice, Survivor, and other reality shows all season after two seasons of coming in third in ratings. Fox clearly decided to cut its losses here and try a different show, which has not yet been announced.
Marechal, AJ. “Fox Cancels ‘The X Factor’ After Three Seasons.” Variety, 7 February 2014. http://variety.com/2014/tv/news/the-x-factor-cancelled-by-fox-after-three-seasons-1201091930/
According to Variety, Netflix reported a 20% fall in viewing during the first half of Super Bowl XLVIII, but picked up during the second half to normal levels. Netflix accounts for a whopping 31.6% of downstream internet traffic during television’s primetime hours, so a 20% drop in viewers for over an hour is a significant loss.
However, we’re not here to talk about Netflix. This drop in streaming from Netflix, if read between the lines, says something more significant about Fox. The square-off between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos back in January, the Superbowl, is one of the most-viewed televised events every year. If Netflix viewing was down 20% during the first half, that means a significant number of people were likely watching the game/commercials surrounding the Super Bowl.
A variety of reasons for the drop in viewership during the second half can be assembled. If you were keeping half an eye on Twitter during the game like I was, it’s no secret that many people thought this year’s Super Bowl had some of the worst ads in recent years. People who don’t enjoy sports and watch the sporting event for the commercials were probably among the first to defect back to their beloved Netflix. Next, you’ve got people who watched with only passing interest. People that enjoy football, but aren’t fans of either team. And finally, you have the people who were simply tired of watching what was, admittedly, a really boring game. When one team gets steamrolled for four quarters, nobody wants to watch.
It’s not Fox’s fault the game was such a bust, but surely they lost some revenue from the significant portion of dropped viewers, and in the future, other networks may have to come up with contingency plans for such occurrences.
Spangler, Todd. “Super Bowl: Netflix Traffic Fell 20% in First Half, But Then Bounced Back to Normal Levels.” Variety, 3 February 2014. http://variety.com/2014/digital/news/super-bowl-netflix-traffic-fell-20-in-first-half-but-bounced-back-to-normal-levels-1201084526/
Variety reports that after a court decision that the big three of the tobacco industry (Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard) need to sponsor anti-smoking ads targeted at young people and African Americans, the two most at-risk groups from smoking, currently. Viacom and Fox argue that they should be able to air these ads instead of just CBS, NBC, and ABC, because between the two of them they own the five most-watched networks by persons 12-34. Fox argued, “Fox enjoys particular popularity among younger audiences, having been the preferred network among teenagers 12-17 and men 18-34 for 12 consecutive years. It was also the top rated network for 11 of the past 12 seasons among adults under the age of 35.”
What does this mean? First of all, Fox sees itself as the best way to reach at-risk youth and younger adults (especially males) of this demographic because of the popularity of its programming coinciding with its viewership. Like we talked about in class, Fox generally does have a younger, “edgier” demographic and image, and this advertising target will hopefully help promote healthy choices such as not smoking, in addition to helping Fox rein in their reputation for being edgy on occasion.
It goes without saying that Fox will likely profit from the ad revenue, depending on whether its request is approved or not. Being that the ads are being required to be made and costing big tobacco tens of millions of dollars, it’s a smart move for Fox to be in the interest of getting a cut of that check.
Johnson, Ted. “Viacom and Fox Seek Share of Court-Mandated Anti-Smoking Spots.” Variety, 29 January, 2014. http://variety.com/2014/tv/news/viacom-fox-court-mandated-anti-smoking-spots-1201076151/
Business Week notes, it’s become tradition for the president to speak to a news personality from the network hosting the Super Bowl before the game each year. This year, the job falls to Bill O’Reilly from Fox’s “The O’Reilly Factor.” The interview itself will be held at the White House. Additional footage from the interview not aired on February 2nd, will be aired during O’Reilly’s show the following day.
It’s not surprising that this interview is taking place. Obama has made a point to do an interview for the past four iterations of the NFL spectacle, and this year is no different. It’s funny to note that the interview and game both take place on Fox, a company who has historically been diametrically opposed to any agenda set forth by the president. The company takes the opportunity to put Obama on air again with one of it’s darling pundits in what will hopefully be an enlightening interview before the face-off between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks.
Bias towards Fox News aside, this is a great opportunity for the network. An interview with the president before one of the biggest televised events of the year spells nothing but high ratings and dollar signs for Fox. It’s not a surprising move, but perhaps the selection of Bill O’Reilly as the interviewer will give a more “fair and balanced” opportunity to ask some of the questions the American public have on the public consciousness. O’Reilly is an award-winning author, and a close friend of Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” and surely O’Reilly knows that flubbing the interview could provide Stewart some comedic gold.
“Bill O’Reilly to interview Obama before Super Bowl.” Business Week, 24 January 2014. http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2014-01-24/bill-oreilly-to-interview-obama-before-super-bowl