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EXCLUSIVE: Fox Reveals Development Slate Early To Advertisers

Fox is out this week updating media agencies about its programming plans for May. Chairman of Fox Broadcasting, Entertainment, Peter Liguori, together with entertainment president, Kevin Reilly and ad sales president Jon Nesvig hosted a number of sessions for agencies at News Corp’s headquarters; the latest was Tuesday.

Fox is the first broadcast network to give agencies a comprehensive presentation of its programming plans, though NBC shared its updated slate at the Super Bowl with those advertisers attending. Official development meetings, traditionally held in March, were wiped out last year as a result of the writers’ strike.

Shari Anne Brill, senior vice president programming at Carat, who saw today’s presentation, said she was impressed, saying, “There’s a lot of good thinking there…They want to do more live action comedy, they want to build that.” 

Receiving most positive attention from media agencies is a show called Glee (from Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy), about a singing club at a high school. The characters in the one-hour comedy revolve around typical high school types such as the jocks and the nerds. Fox showed executives a clip show reel.

One agency buyer who didn’t wish to be named said: “They didn’t have anything complete, but Glee, will have two to three episodes by May. It was edgy and cute.”  Brill says that while Glee is directed at teens it would also attract a wider audience, like American Idol has.

According to those present, Fox was also pumped about its adaptation of British screwball comedy, Absolutely Fabulous, from BBC, which portrays a crazed publicity hound and her alcoholic good for nothing friend as they do the rounds of media events and lunches. The Fox rework already has Kristen Johnson (Third Rock) attached.

Brill also like a show called Eva Adams, which is in the vein of the Mel Gibson movie, What Women Want, and features a sexist sports agent who wakes up to find himself in a woman’s body.

The Fox executives talked about how they want to have a truly year-round schedule and use their strongest shows such as House and American Idol to help launch newcomers.

One agency executive said Fox is looking to skew more female with a handful of shows including one called Maggie Hill, about a physician with psychiatric problems. The show is said to have the feel of former Fox hit, Ally McBeal.

The Fox executives suggested that J..J. Adams’ Fringe, which began slowly but is now a hit, will most likely return to the schedule as will Tim Roth-fronted drama, Lie to Me.

One agency analyst said: “This was helpful and is a follow-up to what we saw in October and November. Fox is taking a more ‘lets-work-together’ approach. How they’re communicating has changed a bit, which we appreciate.”

This agency executive said ABC had chosen to play things a little more close to the vest adding that entertainment president Steve McPherson, who is now in charge of both network and studio, is expected to host a series of small meetings with key clients.

Agency executives have NBC’s “In-Front” presentation scheduled for the first week of May. No word yet on CBS and CW’s upcoming development plans for advertisers.