LOS ANGELES Fox is shaking up the commercial TV model with "Remote-Free TV."
At its upfront presentation Thursday, the network announced it will air two new drama series, J.J. Abrams' Fringe and Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, with dramatically reduced commercial breaks.
"It's a simple concept and potentially revolutionary," Fox Entertainment chairman Peter Liguori said. "We're going to have less commercials, less promotional time, and less reason for viewers to use the remote. We're going to redefine the viewing experience."
Both shows would have network commercial loads of about five minutes per hour, about half the usual. The commercial pods would also be shorter and they would have about half the promo load as well.
In an interview after the presentation, Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly acknowledged that "Remote-Free TV" was a risk but there needed to be a "paradigm shift" in network TV.
Cutting down commercials will make the two already pricey sci-fi series even more expensive as they have to produce longer episodes. To offset that and the reduced commercial inventory, the network is planning to charge advertisers a premium.
Ad buyers were generally upbeat about the idea, and said they liked the two shows.
"We're always clamoring for an uncluttered environment," said Carat Media's Andy Donchin. But he said that he wanted to see how much of a premium would be placed on it.
Fringe and Dollhouse highlight Fox's slate of six new series for the 2008-09 season -- two dramas, three comedies and an unscripted show, the most any broadcaster presented at the upfronts.
Once again, the network will launch its fall season earlier than most competitors.
During the week of Aug. 25, Fox will air special two-hour premiere episodes of several series, including Prison Break and Fringe. Dollhouse, which only wrapped up its pilot last Friday, will launch in January.
"We have high expectations for this," Reilly said of Fringe. A large-scale marketing campaign for the series was launched Thursday.
As for Dollhouse, Reilly said he was "confident that this will become the next tentpole series for Fox."