Fox's 2016-17 schedule is packed with familiar brands like Lethal Weapon and 24 (which is being rebooted as 24: Legacy), but those shows didn't just score pickups because they might be easier to market to audiences, say Fox execs.
The network is also embracing brands in major new marketing partnerships and integrations. Fox is teaming with Samsung for its 24: Legacy and creating a new game show based on Shazam.
The Samsung-24: Legacy partnership came out of Fox's new brand partnership team, which was created this year within its marketing department and lead to the network's big Pepsi integration on Empire.
"Together, we're creating an immersive VR experience that's being written by [24 and 24: Legacy executive producer] Howard Gordon, and it will kick off the new season on Fox and Samsung platforms," said Dana Walden, co-chairman and co-CEO at Fox Television Group. Walden spoke at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour in L.A. Her partner, Gary Newman, sat out the executive session. Walden said they may start alternating facing the press at TCA tours.
The network's major brand partnerships include a new interactive musical game show from executive producer Mark Burnett called Beat Shazam. In the series, which hasn't started production yet, teams will compete to identify songs in a variety of genres. The winning team will then face off against the Shazam music app.
Fox is also partnering with MLB and Fox Sports on its baseball series, Pitch, which Walden said was moved from midseason to fall to take advantage of Scandal's absence on the fall schedule (because of Kerry Washington's pregnancy). But the move also enabled the network to take full advantage of Fox's MLB telecasts—including weekly games, the All-Star Game and the World Series—as a promotional platform.
"We're in the midst of a turnaround at Fox," Walden said. "This is a time for rebuilding at Fox and at broadcast networks in general." (Though for Fox more than most. It rebounded to the No. 3 broadcast network among 18- to 49-year-olds last season but was No. 1 in that demo just four years ago.)
While the network had some in-season momentum, Walden said, "we're clearly not where we want to be this summer." She added, "We knew summer was going to be hard [because of the Olympics]," but the network has "promising" scripted and unscripted shows in the pipeline for next season.
The network will try to turn its summer malaise around by premiering all 16 of its fall series in a one-week blitz. Many of its new shows, including Lethal Weapon, wowed buyers at May's upfront.
But Walden, who saw Minority Report implode last fall, noted that IP isn't enough when it comes to putting shows on her schedule. Series like Lethal Weapon and The Exorcist "if, and only if, well executed, would lighten the load on our marketing team," said Walden, who insisted that "every show we ordered won its way onto our schedule. … Reboots are not a guarantee of success, and we certainly know that as well as anyone."
To that end, Lethal Weapon "earned the most coveted slot on our schedule, [before Empire]," because of its quality. Walden said the same goes for 24: Legacy, which will air after the Super Bowl in February.
"It's no longer enough to have great content," Walden said. "We're creating new distribution models to monetize our content across all platforms." She noted that Fox is the only one of the four major broadcast networks with a median age in the advertisers' coveted 18-49 demographic. (Her network is "a super-young 48," she said.) Digital streaming of Fox shows on FoxNow and Hulu has doubled in the past two years.
Aside from its Sunday night lineup of animated shows, Fox is still struggling with comedies, as audiences lack the urgency to watch as they do with dramas, according to Walden. Viewers aren't watching it in the seven-day C7 window, which makes it difficult to monetize those viewers. NBC is facing the same problem with Superstore—after four months of delayed viewing, its premiere rivaled that of The Voice's fall premiere.
In other TCA announcements from Fox, Mariah Carey, who had her own big TCA moment last week, will guest star on Empire's Oct. 5 episode as a "megasuperstar" who is dueting with Jussie Smollett's Jamal Lyon on a new song.
The network is planning a crossover episode with Brooklyn Nine-Nine and New Girl on Oct. 11, which will start on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and conclude on New Girl. Last season, the network engineered a crossover between dramas Bones and Sleepy Hollow.
"The crossover episode has historically been the artistic high point of any show that has dared to attempt it," said New Girl creator Elizabeth Meriwether in a tongue-in-cheek statement. "Maybe you remember 'Blackout Thursday' on NBC or, even further back, the infamous Alf-Gilligan's Island crossover of the late 1980s. New Girl and Brooklyn Nine-Nine will proudly and humbly go where few shows have gone since the 1990s. We know we have big shoes to fill, and we look forward to disappointing everyone."
The Simpsons, which will air its 600th episode on Oct. 16, is planning its first hourlong episode, which will air in January. That episode will have guest voice appearances from Empire's Taraji P. Henson and Keegan-Michael Key.
The network still wants to bring back The X-Files for additional episodes and is holding "significant talks" with creator Chris Carter and stars David Duchvony and Gillian Anderson, said David Madden, president of entertainment at Fox Broadcasting Company