Fox Gets 35-40% Premiums for ‘Remote-Free TV’ Inventory

NEW YORK Fox is getting between 35-40 percent pricing premiums for commercials in its two new 2008-09 season dramas, Fringe and The Dollhouse, in its upfront deals with advertisers, according to media agency sources.

Under its Remote-Free TV plan, the network is running only half the number of commercials and promotional minutes in those shows in an effort to maximize viewer engagement.

Fringe will premiere this fall, while The Dollhouse will begin airing in January. The resulting decrease in the number of ads will cut the length of commercial breaks by shortening the commercial pods.

Agency sources estimate that Fox has sold about 70 percent of its upfront prime-time inventory and could be done with its upfront sales by the end of this week. Fox’s prime-time packages with Remote Free TV inventory included are averaging cost-per-thousand increases in the low-double digits, while packages without Remote Free TV inventory are averaging increases between 8-10 percent, similar to the increases garnered for prime-time inventory in the upfront by ABC.

The Remote Free TV concept has been praised by some media agency executives, including GroupM chairman and CEO Irwin Gotlieb, who gave Fox credit for taking what he hopes will be the first step in the broadcast and cable networks eliminating commercial clutter.

Sources familiar with agency negotiations with Fox said the network was hoping to get greater premiums for the Remote Free TV, but agencies, even those who have embraced the concept, have taken a hard line. And that has somewhat slowed negotiations.

Fox sales executives were not available for comment.