11:02am PT by Lacey Rose
Fox Chiefs on Future of 'Bones' and 'X-Files,' Sustainability of 'Empire'
Fox TV Group chairmen and CEOs Dana Walden and Gary Newman wasted no time making news.
The pair, who have been in the job for a year and a half, graced the Television Critics Association stage Friday and announced a series of renewals (Empire, Scream Queens), pickups (Prison Break, 24 spinoff pilot) and casting updates (Trisha Yearwood in The Passion, Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show). The news came as part of state of the union of sorts, with Newman acknowledging that "fall is an extremely competitive time [and Fox has] the added challenge of baseball preemptions."
Before opening the Pasadena ballroom up to questions, he and Walden used the platform to showcase the changing nature of contemporary viewership, with Scream Queens as their test case. In a series of slides, they highlighted how over 30 days, 30 percent of the Scream Queens audiences watched live, while 26 percent watched on DVR and 44 percent watched on VOD, Hulu and Fox Now. Speaking to the same point, they also revealed how more than 60 percent of the horror-comedy's audience watches the series outside of the same-day window.
When pressed later about how advertisers are responding to such breakdowns, Newman acknowledged that cross-platform monetization remains a challenge. That said, the conversations with Madison Avenue buyers are "improving quite a bit," he said, reminding the room that a substantial amount of Fox's business is sold on a C7 (seven day) basis. Newman added that his team is also having conversations about co-branding opportunities when they make sense and won't hinder the viewing experience.
Here are the other highlights from the pair's half-hour or so before the press:
When asked about the critical jabs and ratings dips Empire has suffered in its second season, Newman smiled wide and referenced the series' still spectacular ratings: "If that show is off creatively, we'd like all of our shows to be off creatively." He went on to say that, judging by the strength of the show's Nielsen performance, the audience doesn't share the critics' concerns. And though some viewership losses were to be expected, he added, "creatively, the show is in a great spot."
Future of Bones
Walden fielded the question about Bones' future, which included a reference to a messy lawsuit between the series' stars and producers and studio 20th Century Fox TV over the series' profits. "[We're] really not sure about Bones," she said, noting that those conversations would begin next week. If they decide this season will be the network's longest-running series' last, she insisted the writing team would be given time to plot a satisfying end for the drama's fans. "We don't want this show limping to an ending," she added post-panel. "We want to send it out with style and class and the way it deserves to be wrapped up." She also insisted that they had no plans to continue the show without stars David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel. As for the legal matter, she acknowledged it was not yet resolved but suggested it had "no impact, really, on our decision."
Though The X-Files won't debut until Jan. 24, Walden and Newman have already had discussions about doing more. Of course, the biggest impediment to reviving the series in the first place were the busy schedules of franchise stars Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. But if the actors and creator Chris Carter can carve out the time to do a second season, Newman suggested he and Walden "would be on board." He added, "Even the other night at the premiere, we were all laughing and joking that we would love to do this again."
Newman revealed post-panel that Fox is still talking to Simon Cowell about returning to Fox's air, but that his decision to appear as a judge on NBC's America's Got Talent this summer delayed that plan. Walden confirmed that characters from Scream Queens' first season are expected to reappear in season two, which will move to a hospital setting. And as for the 24 spinoff, there will be a time jump and, as a result, a new cast of characters (though there are nods to prior CTU agents in the pilot). Finally, Sleepy Hollow's future is still in question. "It's a very difficult show to keep reinventing," Walden said, "[but] we're liking what we're seeing this season."