NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The fight to keep viewers from zapping past commercials continues at Fox in the 2009-2010 programming season. After experimenting with running fewer ads in select programs and charging advertisers more for the privilege of having less clutter surrounding their messages, Fox will offer the technique -- known as "Remote-Free TV" -- in more limited fashion next season, executives said today.
The News Corp. network will also run pieces of content during ad breaks crafted by the producers of the shows running on air at the time, part of another move to keep audiences rooted to the screen during commercial interruptions.
More selective use
The network intends to offer "Remote-Free TV" more selectively going forward, rather than just making it available during sci-fi series "Fringe" and "Dollhouse," as it did this season.
"We are not giving up completely on 'Remote-Free TV.' We are going to use it strategically and potentially on a number of different shows over the course of the season," said Jon Nesvig president-sales, Fox Broadcasting Co. Executives thought the idea was a "terrific experiment" that proved "tough economically" to make work on a week-by-week basis, he said.
The network's plans were unveiled during a conference call to announce its 2009-2010 programming schedule, the first presentation during Upfront Week, in which the broadcast networks try to dazzle advertisers in advance of trying to sell as much as 75% to 80% of the ad inventory for the season. But Fox's emphasis on methods to keep eyeballs on ads is indicative of the efforts media outlets are making as they are confronted not only by new technology that gives consumers more choice in how they watch TV, but a difficult economy that will force advertisers to keep a very firm hand on their pocketbooks.
Fox will make the fewer-ads effort available to clients in a more selective fashion, executives indicated today on a conference call to introduce the network's new fall schedule. Advertisers interested in sponsoring an entire episode of a show could make use of it, or Fox would make it available for special programs, such as a season premiere, executives said.
The network also said it would offer in the fall a technique it's calling "Alive Air." Executives described the concept as a "commitment to add spontaneous elements, original elements throughout our schedule to keep the engagement up throughout the commercial pods." The announcement gives more heft to an idea Fox has been experimenting with since the spring of 2007, when it began airing short vignettes in ad breaks featuring an offbeat taxi-driving character known as Oleg in animated shorts.
The new commercials may be the most shocking things to appear on Fox's air come autumn, as the network unveiled a lineup that appeared quite stable. Of its scripted live-action offerings, only sci-fi drama "Terminator" is not returning. The network has already announced the cancellations of "Prison Break" and "King of the Hill."
Fox said it would make "Glee," a much-anticipated musical drama that has a sneak-peak debut tomorrow evening, part of its fall schedule and made a 13-episode order with plans to bring the drama back in the spring. The network will also bring its summer-dance reality show, "So You Think You Can Dance," to Tuesday and Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. It will also launch "The Cleveland Show," a spinoff of its animated "Family Guy," on Sundays. "Brothers," a new buddy comedy, will air Friday evening along with another Fox sitcom, "Til Death."
Fox typically holds back its best fare until spring, when "American Idol" often boosts its entire schedule. The network's agreement to run the World Series and other championship games from Major League Baseball often gets in the way of its annual fall roll-out.
As such, Fox said it would bring back "Idol" as well as "24" in the spring, as well as a new comedy and two new dramas. "Sons of Tucson," a comedy focused on a wayward schemer hired by three brothers whose father is in prison, joins the Sunday-night lineup in midseason. Also set to debut is "Human Target," a drama based on a comic-book that focuses on a bodyguard who disguises himself as the people he's paid to protect; and "Past Life," a crime drama in which a psychologist must unravel mysteries that take place in the present and the past.
Fox will try something unique to launch both "Human Target" and "24." On Sunday, Jan. 17, Fox will run both programs after its telecast of the NFC Divisional Playoff Game. After the premiere of "Human Target," the season debut of "24" is slated to run from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. that evening; Fox typically stops broadcasting network fare at 10 p.m.
Fox also said it would introduce a new late-night talk program on Saturdays at 11 p.m. featuring comedienne Wanda Sykes.