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Nets Prime the Pump

Broadcast networks unveil ambitious slates
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Fox
Remains the home of young viewers, adds Britney Spears to The X Factor to seal the deal.

On pace to claim its eighth consecutive full-season victory in the 18-49 demo, Fox doesn’t have an awful lot of hoops to jump through or plates to spin.

Its upfront pitch was essentially an opportunity for programming chief Kevin Reilly to remind everyone about how Fox is the go-to destination for the under-50 set, and he drives the message home by trotting out a stable of youthful series regulars.

It’s a remarkably effective strategy, and even a casual observer can see what a little star power can achieve. Take, for instance, the moment when Simon Cowell introduced Britney Spears as one of The X Factor’s new judges: Not only did a whoop go up inside the Beacon Theatre, but advertisers scrambled to record the moment with their iPhones.

This seemingly effortless marshalling of its forces extends to Fox’s programming strategy for 2012-13. Reilly’s master stroke was to maintain the status quo; in fact, one of the few moves that qualifi es as a biggie was the decision to shift Glee to the Thursday 9 p.m. slot, where it will lead out of The X Factor’s one-hour results show.

Linking thseries to the song-and-dance drama showcase should help ensure that most elusive of qualities on broadcast TV: flow. And the shift is a huge win for Glee, as it will also reap the benefit of an American Idol lead-in after Cowell and Co. close out their second season in late December.

So consistent is Fox’s fall schedule that it will bow just three new series in the fall. On Tuesday night, the freshman hit New Girl will be the meat in a sandwich of the off-kilter family comedy Ben and Kate and The Mindy Project, the much-ballyhooed series from the former writer and star of The Office Mindy Kaling.

The latter half of Fox’s new two- hour comedy block goes head-to-head with a pair of other hilarity-heavy hours: ABC’s Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B---- in Apt. 23 and NBC newbies Go On and The New Normal.

Some media buyers have said that the three-car comedy pileup will make planning a bit of a chore.

“The networks generally haven’t had more than a few hours of comedy overlap here and there, and now all going to be a little more challenging to decide where to put down some of the money because you don’t necessarily want to buy everything. It’s a famine-to-feast situation.”

The CW
The net banks on hunky bad boys to keep female viewers hooked.

The CW’s 2012-13 schedule is a glittery, sexy paradox, a collection of high-impact, cinematic dramas that appear to have been created in a laboratory in order to reach the greatest number of women 18-34.

Everywhere you look, the network has cast brooding, chiseled hunks, damaged boys who need the healing touch of a good woman and perhaps some kind of serum to prevent them from turning into ravenous monsters.

As a bonus, nearly 90 percent of the network’s female stars are pretty yet unthreatening brunettes. The one identifiable blonde lead is Mamie Gummer, the sunny spitting image of mother Meryl Streep. Unthreatening!

So what’s the problem? Well, as The CW president Mark Pedowitz has been saying since the day he took the reins, the network’s viewers are all but ignored by Nielsen, as they simply do not consume their TV content in the time-honored manner. Instead, they’re watching online streams or on iTunes or via other ancillary platforms, and The CW just doesn’t get credited for those impressions.

While the network is developing a separate measurement system designed to demonstrate its relevance, the show must go on at the linear network. To that end, it will premiere three new series in the fall— Arrow, Emily Owens, M.D. and Beauty and the Beast, all of which will be joined in midseason by the Sex and the City prequel, The Carrie Diaries.

Rather than introduce its new series in the midst of the early-fall premiere fray, The CW will delay its season launch until October.

One thing you won’t see on The CW this fall is scripted comedy, though Pedowitz said the network is inching closer to picking up a 30-minute series. “There were two scripts we were hot on that we will probably put into development,” he said, before adding that the priority was to “restabilize the schedule. And drama was the way to do it."