Soccer, Limited Series to Fill Fox Stations’ Summer

Why This Matters: The Fox stations use summertime to test new concepts, rest veteran shows and just give themselves some fresh programming instead of airing low-rated repeats.

It is the fox television stations’ stated goal to offer as much day-and-date programming as possible. This summer, the station group will have that in spades, starting with the FIFA World Cup from June 14 through July 15 and going all the way to Labor Day and possibly beyond.

On tap are at least four new first-run programs: the already announced Phone Swap, off of Snapchat; social-media video show The Hustle, from Warner Bros.; game show 25 Words or Less, from Friends star Lisa Kudrow’s production company; and Kidd Nation, from the radio team behind Kidd Kraddick in the Morning, which will air on Fox-owned KDFW Dallas-Ft. Worth and KRIV Houston.

Later this summer, a few more shows could be announced as well. The Fox stations also would like to start carrying their summer programming strategy into the fall, senior VP of programming Frank Cicha said. The group has a little room to play with this year since NBCUniversal’s Harry, starring Harry Connick Jr., is going off the air.

“In retrospect, I’m happy we didn’t go out and buy something [after Harry was canceled],” Cicha said. “Now we can be creative with those time periods if there’s an interesting opportunity between now and next year.”

Airtime to Fill

With duopoly stations in many markets, and only two hours of primetime each night and three on Sundays, Fox affiliates have a lot of space to fill. The stations also own several programs that allow for double-runs, though, such as Sony Pictures Television’s Dr. Oz. That helps fill time while also allowing for some scheduling flexibility.

Fox announced the pickup of dating show Phone Swap off of Snapchat in May. Should that work, it would mark the dating genre’s return to syndication. Once all the rage in daytime, the genre died out when NBCUniversal’s Blind Date went off the air in 2006 (although ABC’s The Bachelor and The Bachelorette franchises march ever on in primetime.)

Phone Swap updates the dating show for the online age. The premise is that after would-be daters agree to go on a date, they learn they must hand over their phones to the other party. Each person then gets to peruse everything about their potential date’s phone — texts, pictures, Snaps, tweets and so forth. If they like what they see, a date ensues.

The show comes from Elisabeth Murdoch’s Vertical Networks. In its first season, Phone Swap attracted more than 10 million views per episode on Snapchat.

“Any way that new programs can have a social media slant to them, that breeds familiarity to a younger audience,” Cicha said. TV stations are hungry to attract younger viewers, but with the competition from video games, smartphones and apps — such as Snapchat — it’s increasingly hard to snag their attention.

Along those lines, Fox also is going to test The Hustle, which will feature trending videos without voiceover or hosts to guide viewers’ way.

“This show strips out the window-dressing and puts out a cleaner presentation of this material, which does seem to resonate with people,” Cicha said.

The Hustle will be one of the first summer shows to premiere, coming on right after the World Cup in mid-July and airing until sometime in August.

25 Words or Less is based on a board game of the same name, in which people must get their teammates to guess five words on a card. The number of words they are allowed to use is determined by each team bidding for the right to try first, starting with 25 guesses and working their way down. The bidding ends when one bidder grants the other the chance to try to get his team to say all five words with the guesses allocated to him in less than one minute. If his team gets all five words, they get to keep the card and the point. If not, the other team gets to try.

The show comes from Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky and their production company, Is or Isn’t Entertainment. It will be produced internally at the Fox Television Stations by Stephen Brown, executive VP of programming and development, and his team.

Games on the Wane

Game shows are another genre that has dwindled in syndication, with only four — Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud, CBS Television Distribution’s Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! and Disney-ABC’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire — remaining on the air. Feud, Wheel and Jeopardy! all are among syndication’s most-watched shows and Feud usually leads the syndication ratings chart among key adult 25-54 demographics, proving that viewers still are attracted to them.

The last game show to be introduced to syndication was Debmar-Mercury’s Celebrity Name Game, which, like Feud, was produced by FremantleMedia North America. That show, hosted by Craig Ferguson, averaged a 1.3 in households for the most of the three seasons that it aired and ended its run last year.

Last summer, Fox tested iWitness, a game show created by Judge Judy Sheindlin, but that show didn’t proceed.

Both Phone Swap and 25 Words will air later in the summer, with Kidd Nation airing in Dallas and Houston.

Kidd Nation comes from the team behind daily radio program Kidd Kraddick in the Morning. David “Kidd” Kraddick died suddenly on July 27, 2013, from cardiac arrest at the age of 53, but the show continued on as The Kidd Kraddick Morning Show, starring Kellie Raspberry, Big Al Mack, José “J-Si” Chavez and Jenna Owens. Fox previously worked with that team on its show Dish Nation, which is still on the air but is no longer nationally rated by Nielsen.

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.