The 2013-14 Upfront

This Is What We Saw at the TV Upfronts This Year

And here's what it looked like

Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly last Monday acknowledged that the network had taken its lumps this season. (Through 33 weeks, Fox is averaging a 2.5 in the 18-49 demo, down 22 percent versus a year ago.) “We had some challenges … particularly in the fall,” Reilly said, before adding that things are decidedly looking up. “Next season, we’ve got the Super Bowl … and we’re making the biggest investment in entertainment programming that we’ve ever made.”

After delivering the top-rated new series in its bloody crime drama The Following, Fox is eager to strike while the spatter is fresh. The network takes its biggest swings with the giddily bonkers Sleepy Hollow and J.J. Abrams’ paranoid android cop drama, Almost Human. “Sleepy Hollow, if it’s going to work anywhere, it’ll work on Fox,” said Noah Everist, associate media director at Campbell Mithun’s Compass Point Media. “They really program to their strengths.”

Everist said he’s not at all surprised by the abundance of sci-fi/fantasy projects on the schedule (Fox is also prepping the self-contained M. Night Shyamalan fable, Wayward Pines). “Anytime you see a genre deliver like sci-fi has, you’re going to see everyone hop aboard the bandwagon. Which they’ll ride until it breaks down, and then they’ll go look for something else,” Everist said.

Added another buyer: “The problem with this type of show is, you can’t sustain the necessary budgets over a 22-, 23-episode season. There should be less wear and tear on their genre stuff if they stick to shorter orders.”

With fewer GRPs to sell and pricing premiums expected to come in at around 6 percent, Fox could face a tough upfront. Per Barclays estimates, the net stands to book $1.88 billion in upfront commitments, down 14.5 percent versus last year’s $2.2 billion.

After every last one of its freshman comedies failed last season, NBC has come back to the table with a clutch of traditional family comedies and cop shows that wouldn’t look out of place on CBS.

If anything can be characterized as a consensus favorite, it’s The Michael J. Fox Show. The Monday crowd at Radio City Music Hall cheered the cut-down, which had its share of genuinely funny moments. Buyers were also intrigued by the James Spader drama Blacklist. According to NBC entertainment president Bob Greenblatt, the new crime thriller out-tested NBC’s last 125 drama pilots, making it the network’s best-received one-hour show in a decade.

NBC is also embracing the other big upfront trends, launching the limited series (10 episodes) Dracula in the fall and rolling out J.J. Abrams’ supernatural adventure Believe on Sundays in midseason.

Analysts expect NBC will be flat to slightly up on volume, which would put its upfront take at around $1.81 billion.

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