Fox Broadcasting Executives Relish TV's New Golden Age7 Oct, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel
Since assuming co-chair/co-CEO titles at Fox Broadcasting Co. last year, venerable executives Dana Walden and Gary Newman continue to guide the company’s TV assets in a rapidly evolving media landscape that has put a premium on ubiquitous access to serialized programming.
Named “Personalities of the Year” at Mipcom in Cannes, France, Walden and Newman Oct. 7 discussed the challenges of finding distinctive and creative content increasingly required to have global appeal across multiple distribution channels.
In addition to Emmy-winning comedy “Modern Family,” drama “Gotham,” comedy “The Last Man on Earth,” and “Empire,” the highest-rated domestic drama in seven years, Walden and Newman oversee newly created Fox 21 Television Studios, reportedly the largest pay-TV production company.
In addition to award-winning espionage series “Homeland,” Fox 21 produces 19 shows, including Cold War drama “The Americans,” last year’s return of Kiefer Sutherland as agent Jack Bauer in miniseries 24: Live Another Day, and pending anthology series “American Crime Story,” among others.
“It’s gotten harder in many ways; the bar is very high,” Walden said. “You used to be able to have a show that was a mid-range performer and it would perform fine; this is no longer the case. This is a hits-driven business.”
With TV audiences moving away from traditional broadcasts to on-demand viewing and subscription streaming, Walden said programing has to be bold, loud and edgy.
“Playing it safe is not a winning strategy,” she said.
Indeed, greenlighting shows such as “Sons of Anarchy,” about a dysfunctional motorcycle club, as well as “Homeland,” Walden and Newman specifically seek programming not available on TV.
“If you believe in the show, you have to give it an opportunity to connect with the audience,” Newman said.
With linear TV ratings in decline, tracking viewers three-to-seven days after initial broadcast is just as important as overnight ratings, according to Newman. He said putting new shows on video-on-demand enables viewers to familiarize with the content on their schedules.
“Over time, people fall in love with the series, and that priority [to watch time-delayed] begins to change. And if people are watching in a measured time period … we’re monetizing that with our advertisers,” he said.
With the popularity of serialized dramas and on-demand viewing, Walden and Newman maintain that the procedural drama is not going away. Fox’s most-popular procedural remains “Bones,” now in its 11th season. New series “Rosewood,” starring Morris Chestnut and Jaina Lee Ortiz, aims to replicate that show’s enduring popularity delivering witty banter in a world of science.
“The procedural was so successful in the U.S., it’s inevitable that people will get a little tired,” Newman said. “[But] it’s still going strong. We hear about it all the time from buyers. While they love and admire our serialized shows, a lot of audiences are more comfortable with episodic formats.”