Upfront Day 4: A Spot-On Move By Fox
Anna Torv, Mark Valley and Joshua Jackson in Fringe by Michael Lavine/Fox
We've been hearing a lot of industry whining lately about how technology is ravaging the traditional TV business model. Starting next season, Fox will actually try to do something about it.
One reason viewers love watching their favorite shows on digital video recorders is because they can skip through commercials. And who can blame them? Network ad and promo time has been creeping up for years. So next season, Fox will designate two of its new drama series as "Remote-Free TV" which will carry at least 50 minutes of program content per hour compared to the usual 42 to 44 minutes.
That means the typical load of commercials and promos will be cut nearly in half. Fox will try the experiment in its new sci-fi series Fringe
, which is set to air Tuesdays at 9, and Dollhouse
, airing Mondays at 8 starting in January. Fox entertainment chairman Peter Liguori says he is committed to keeping the limited number of spots on the two shows for the full season.
Fox sales chief Jon Nesvig said advertisers are always asking for the first or last positions in a commercial pod, so that viewers will see their spots before they can skip through them or flip the channel. With "Remote-Free TV," "We won't have much else," Nesvig told The Biz after the network's May 15 presentation.
Obviously, Fox hopes it can charge more for the spots that run on Fringe
since they'll be fewer of them. But there's no guarantee there will be an immediate financial gain. "Some advertisers will recognize the value of it and they'll set the market," says Liguori. "We have no idea."
The cost of the production on the shows will also increase, since at least one extra scene will have to be shot to fill the added time. But if the plan works, more people will be sitting through those commercials and the money will follow. Meanwhile, the viewers are getting more show and shorter interruptions.
Nesvig first raised the idea of addressing the issue of commercial clutter after watching TV while on a hotel treadmill. As Liguori relates, "We were in the scheduling room and [Jon] said, 'I've got to tell you, there are a lot of commercials on the air.' We all started riffing on it."
Maybe more executives should spend their time watching TV the way viewers do. Related:
" Fox's Fringe, Dollhouse to Run with Half the Ads Bookmark our COMPLETE FALL TV GRID
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