Fox Concludes Upfront Negotiations Down

Empire S01E12 Still - H 2015
Chuck Hodes/FOX

Empire S01E12 Still - H 2015

The fourth-place network is down in the single digits compared to double-digit drops over the previous two seasons.

Fox has concluded its upfront negotiations down as much as 5 percent in dollar volume, say sources familiar with the company's sales efforts.

Last year, the network pulled in $1.6 billion, a decline of 10 percent year-over-year due to foundering ratings for onetime juggernaut American Idol and a paucity of new hits. It was the second consecutive year Fox saw such a drop in the upfront market. And this season, even with midseason mega hit Empire, Fox saw its ratings among the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demographic plummet 24 percent.

The recent restructuring of the company's sales efforts has cushioned the blow since the entertainment and sports networks of 21st Century Fox are being bundled for greater cross-platform efficiencies. And that has allowed the network group — which includes Fox Sports, FX, FXX, National Geographic Channel and others — to record flat revenue across the portfolio. The multi-network approach was stressed at the network's upfront presentation last May —the first presided over by co-chairmen Gary Newman and Dana Walden — which opened with a shot of Fargo, the FX hit that returns for a second season in September.

Additionally, like CBS, which closed negotiations on Monday, Fox also saw more deals done on C7 (commercial ratings with seven days of delayed viewing), rather than C3, the current industry standard. Though most delayed viewing is done in the first three days after a program airs, Madison Avenue's willingness to write deals on C7 - with highly favorable pricing - is seen as an important step toward monetizing all the ways viewers consume content. 

The programs that generated the most interest among buyers, say sources included Empire, the John Stamos vehicle Grandfathered and Ryan Murphy's Scream Queens on Fox; American Horror Story and The Americans on FX and, as usual, Fox Sports broadcasts of the World Series, NFL and Major League Baseball playoffs.