Upfront Week: Fox Pumped for Football Season

Joe Marchese, president of ad revenue at Fox, started off the network’s upfront presentation Monday by repeating the phrase “closer to,” as in, Fox bringing audiences closer to programming and bringing brands closer to the issues that are important to them.

“Great storytelling is the perfect brand-building platform,” he said.

Marchese talked up JAZ Pods, which will feature two 30-second national commercials per break, saying the spots will appear in Fox’s prime, in Fox Sports and on National Geographic.

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He stepped off stage for Jamie Foxx, who played a little Beat Shazam with the crowd.

Then it was Gary Newman and Dana Walden, chairmen and CEOs of Fox Television Group. Newman spoke of “an opportunity to chart a new course for broadcast television,” and mentioned “new Fox” frequently. Walden promised a “more cohesive schedule.”

They said Fox stood to attract 82% live viewership this coming season, ahead of NBC’s projected 74%. They mentioned the network’s younger viewers, and massive social footprint.

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Ryan Murphy then stepped on stage to talk about his drama 9-1-1, which he said drew 15 million viewers per episode. Cast members Angela Bassett and Peter Krause joined him on stage. “The response has been phenomenal,” said Murphy.

Walden and Newman spoke of Last Man Standing, which had aired for several seasons on ABC before heading to Fox. Newman spoke of Thursday Night Football promoting Last Man on Fridays. Tim Allen came on stage next. “The fans of Last Man Standing wouldn’t leave this alone,” he said of the reaction when it was done on ABC.

Walden spoke about new comedy The Cool Kids, a Charlie Day show about a naughty group of residents at an old folks home. “Some people grow old with dignity,” said Walden. “This is not those people.”

He also spoke about Rel, starring Lil Rel Howery, who played a TSA agent in the film Get Out.

Joe Buck came out to talk about sports, including the World Cup on Fox and Fox Sports 1, Thursday Night Football, college football and the World Series. “We own the fall,” went the verbiage on screen. Buck and Troy Aikman will be in the booth for the Thursday NFL games.

Alex Rodriguez was next, the MLB analyst talking about baseball headed for a “great, great summer and even better October.”

Terry Bradshaw, Michael Strahan and Howie Long joined Buck on stage to talk about football, with Aikman and Eli Manning later joining them. Manning offered New York tips for the Manhattan-based TNF analysts.

“We have so much fun doing what we’re doing,” said Long.

Newman then came out to talk about unscripted TV. Fergie, DJ Khaled and Diddy talked up The Four, which returns June 7. “When we started this show, we knew we had something very, very special,” said Diddy.

Walden talked up the midseason, which includes The Orville. “This show is a huge priority for us,” she said. New shows Proven Innocent and The Passage are also slated for midseason.

The live musical Rent airs in the midseason, as does the next season of Cosmos. Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts the latter.

Meghan Trainor then performed, bringing the 90-minute presentation to a close.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.