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Upfronts 2016: Fox--We Have Buzz, and We Still Have 'Empire'

Complete Coverage: Upfronts 2016

Fox used its upfront presentation to trumpet its relevancy—a score measured more in social chatter than by traditional ratings—and repeatedly held up Empire as an example of a show breaking through to the masses and wielding major cultural currency.

“Our audience is younger and our content is buzzier,” said Gary Newman, who is cochairman and coCEO of Fox Television Group with Dana Walden.

Like NBCU’s shindig earlier in the day, Fox Networks featured its various properties in the presentation, including FX and National Geographic.

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Empire loomed large over much of the presentation, with cast members, as well as new member Ne-Yo, performing. Taraji P. Henson introduced Walden and Newman.

“What a performance,” said Newman. “Let’s see the cast of NCIS try that.”

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(The Fox execs took a few good-natured jabs at CBS. A photo of CBS chief Leslie Moonves, digitally altered to have no hair, was identified as Les Luthor during a plug for Gotham, while a mention of “walking zombies”—initially an apparent reference to AMC’s The Walking Dead—was a joke about CBS' audience.)

Fox plans to do a split season next year with Empire to maximize its might.

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Newman played up the amount of original content in the coming season, with 90% of the Fox schedule non-repeated episodes. A few of the more hyped dramas stem from hit movie franchises: The Exorcist and Lethal Weapon.

A couple revitalized series, 24: Legacy and Prison Break, got big shout-outs. New comedy The Mick, starring Kaitlin Olson as a boozy hot mess, got some hearty laughs, as did goofball time-travel comedy Making History. (While NBC’s time travel drama Timeless features a high tech aircraft with which to trip through time, Making History’s vessel is a grubby duffel bag with special powers.)

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Fox could desperately use a comedy that breaks through. Son of Zorn, with an animated main character set against a live action backdrop, is another bet the network is taking.

The presentation ran around an hour and 20 minutes, concluding with a performance from the cast members of Star, a new musical drama from Empire cocreator Lee Daniels.

Newman summed up Fox’s 2016-2017 message as “a lot of familiar faces and a lot of stability.”