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Fox Ups Social Media Use for New TV Series

4 Oct, 2011 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Zooey Deschanel in "New Girl"

With the success of “Glee” on Hulu prior to network broadcast, Fox TV generates 2 million episode downloads before “New Girl” pilot broadcast

20th Century Fox Television offered an episode of freshman comedy “New Girl” on iTunes and other video-on-demand platforms before the show’s premiere, generating more than 2 million downloads, an executive said.

In an Oct. 4 keynote address at MIPCOM in Cannes, France, Kevin Reilly, president of Fox Broadcasting Company, said advances in social media and digital distribution mandate mixing up marketing strategies and conventional norms in television programming.

“New Girl” stars Zooey Deschanel as a single young woman living with three male roommates. The show premiered on Fox to the network’s highest comedy ratings in 10 years.

“It’s emerging as the biggest hit of the new fall season … and we’ve already ordered a full season after only two weeks,” Reilly said.

The executive said conventional research and field tests on new programming should have put an end to hits such as "The Shield" and "Glee" before they even aired. He said social media and the Internet have allowed TV programs to develop fan bases before they even air on the network.

“The bottom line is clear: People want choice, mobility and free. We’re no longer just competing against other channels; we’re competing against time and technology,” Reilly said.

He said weekly telecasts have increased from 8,000 airings to more than 20,000 on more than 950 channels during the past 10 years. Less than 50% of Fox’s top-rated shows are watched live, and 86% of mobile Web users are online when watching TV, according to Reilly.

The executive said changes in technology and distribution underscore the value of premium content — a reality that prompted Fox to hold back eight days repurposed episodes of its programming to non-authenticated online channels.

“We are no longer at a place where content gives way to technology,” Reilly said. “They need us and we need them.”

He said Fox learned a lesson attempting to market “Glee” initially for months behind “American Idol” with limited results. The network then streamed episodes on Hulu prior to its premiere and released several songs on iTunes.

“It was about getting the social networks to light up and the conversation to begin,” Reilly said.


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