Tuesday, May 10, 2016

2016 Upfront Questions: Fox

Part two of the upfront preview is the SCHEDULE-centric portion, examining the big-picture scheduling questions each network faces on each night in the final week before its upfront.

On each night, you can see the network's average 2015-16 ratings with its most frequent occupant in three different sub-sections of the year: "fall" (premiere week through December 31), "winter" (January 1 to the beginning of Daylight Saving Time) and "spring" (the start of DST through Thursday, May 5). You can also switch from the A18-49 ratings to the True ratings, which should make the comparisons across nights and across the season a bit more fair.

Last week's Power Rankings were the SHOW-centric portion, drilling more into the merits of individual shows: Fox Power Rankings

Other Upfront Questions: NBC | Fox | ABC | CBS | CW


fallGothamMinority Report1.11
winterThe X-FilesLucifer2.13

Question: Has Lucifer done enough to return to Monday 9/8c in the fall?

Fall occupant Minority Report was one of the season's biggest bombs, and midseason entry Lucifer looked like an absolute godsend by comparison. With its procedural setup, there may be syndication potential, which is all the more reason to get it back early and start racking up the episode count. That said, the numbers were still relatively modest in the grand scheme, and Fox may see potential for a bigger swing. Perhaps the newbie 24: Legacy, already ordered to series, is licking its chops at the prospect of a return to 24's historic Monday timeslot?


fallGrandfatheredThe GrinderScream Queens1.04
winterNew GirlGrandfatheredBrooklyn Nine-NineThe Grinder0.96
springNew GirlGrandfatheredBrooklyn Nine-NineThe Grinder0.77

Question: Which Tuesday comedies make the fall schedule?

Fox tried an all-new Tuesday last fall to disappointing results, eventually needing veterans New Girl and Brooklyn Nine-Nine to stem the bleeding. It'll be even tougher to match that level of aggression this time, with a week three debate preemption in addition to multiple World Series games on Tuesday. A "late fall" push probably couldn't start till November 15, and the holidays would already be close. That would seemingly make reliable but middling veterans like New Girl, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and maybe a Gordon Ramsay show the better choices to navigate the Tuesday waters before the new year.


winterAmerican Idol WedHell's Kitchen1.86

Question: In which hour will Empire air?

Empire seemed like a good bet to move to the 8/7c hour and lead into something new at the last upfront, but it didn't happen. A big reason for that may have been the late meltdown of the seemingly compatible pilot Studio City. This year, the natural pairing with Empire is Star, a newbie from Empire creator Lee Daniels. And we don't have to worry about it blowing up at the last minute since it's already ordered to series.

We saw that Empire could have an impact even as a lead-out, but lead-ins still matter more. So if Star (or another newbie) goes to 8/7c, it could be a sign Fox is not really "all in." That was probably the case with the final Wednesday choice Rosewood last year. It'd be a tough pill to swallow this year since this night is practically all Fox has left.

A second question of some interest is how Fox bridges the Wednesday Empire hiatus. American Idol helped the network stay strong on the night last year, but won't be an option this time. This is certainly a place where MasterChef Junior could get some better use than the Friday placement last year.


fallBonesSleepy Hollow1.03
winterAmerican Idol Thu2.18
springBonesAmerican Grit0.79

Question: What's the new face of Fox Thursday?

Perhaps more than any other night on any network, Thursday is a true blank canvas. American Idol and Bones combined to chew up the vast majority of Fox Thursday real estate this season, and Idol is over with Bones on the way out following a short-order final season.

The safe play, relatively speaking, would be to keep courting the older female audience with some combination of Bones, Rosewood and Sleepy Hollow. That was also the choice last year, and it may not be that much worse this time if Bones gets some final season boost. But there may be a bigger opportunity from the Fox perspective; it's a rare night with no World Series interruptions and no debate interruptions. Not really sure what form an "attack" would take, but maybe 24: Legacy and/or Prison Break could attract some eyeballs.


fallMasterChef JuniorWorld's Funniest0.89
winterSleepy HollowSecond Chance0.67
springSleepy HollowHell's Kitchen0.79

Question: How much effort can a depth-starved Fox put forth on Friday?

If ever there was evidence that advertisers don't like unscripted programming, it was Fox's insistence on airing MasterChef Junior on Friday while many weaker shows languished during the midweek last year. A sans-American Idol Fox is likely to be even more desperate for filler, so MasterChef Junior staying on Friday would arguably be even crazier than it was last year. But what else is there for Friday? Sleepy Hollow? Grandfathered and/or The Grinder?? An outright dump-job of early-renewed weakling Scream Queens???

Things are dire enough that it'd actually be pretty impressive if Fox can avoid a regularly-scheduled Friday drama repeat or movie night for a large chunk of the season. As always, it's worth a reminder that they can easily throw out some all-original lineup at next week's upfront and audible out of it later. (Though the audible didn't happen last year!)


fallThe SimpsonsBrooklyn Nine-NineFamily GuyThe Last Man on Earth1.62
winterThe SimpsonsCooper Barrett's GuideFamily GuyBordertown1.36
springThe SimpsonsBob's BurgersFamily GuyThe Last Man on Earth1.15

Question: Will a new comedy come to Sunday in the fall?

Historically, Fox has launched relatively few new Sunday comedies in the fall, despite the lineup getting a boost from late afternoon NFL lead-ins. And recent efforts like Mulaney and Allen Gregory died very quick deaths. In the past, this hesitance may have been about the lengthy baseball hiatus, and how rare it is for new animated series to get ordered. It even made sense last year, since Brooklyn Nine-Nine had done well on Sunday and 9:30 occupant The Last Man on Earth was still quite young. But now, live action series have succeeded in the lineup, and there's only one week off due to baseball. So there seems to be less reason to hold back.

It's still not perfect; there's an early October presidential debate preemption and that one World Series week on November 1. But perfect is impossible to come by on Sundays nowadays. With help from frequent NFL lead-ins, it's gotta be better than the early winter alternative, which saw Cooper Barrett's Guide and Bordertown get a brief NFL playoff boost but quickly tank against big events from there.

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