Fox, NBC turn to familiar faces to boost viewership

Fox and NBC are looking to stars who were on TV when it looked like this.
Fox and NBC are looking to stars who were on TV when it looked like this to boost their fall show rosters.

Broadcast networks Fox and NBC are turning to proven favorites to lure new viewers next season, with Fox rebooting the defunct Kiefer Sutherland action series “24″ and NBC bringing back Michael J. Fox in a comedy loosely based on his life.

The two networks pitched their TV schedules to advertisers Monday at the start of the upfronts, an annual rite when broadcasters try to persuade advertisers to shell out billions of dollars in advance for their new shows.

NBC and Fox need new hits to fill out their lineups, which may explain why both are bringing back stars from the past.

Primetime ratings at News Corp-owned Fox slumped 16.7 percent this year, according to Nielsen data provided by Horizon Media and based on live viewing and those who record and watch the show the same day. The decline stemmed largely from a dwindling audience for singing contest “American Idol.”

Viewership at Comcast-owned NBC remained flat this season while that of its rivals declined. NBC is so far in third place this year among total viewers based on same-day viewing, but has been in the ratings cellar for years.

At a presentation at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt highlighted “The Michael J. Fox Show,” a new semiautobiographical comedy about a father with Parkinson’s. Fox starred on NBC in 1980s sitcom “Family Ties.”

The network also announced the return of “Will & Grace” star Sean Hayes to its schedule in “Sean Saves the World,” a sitcom about a divorced gay dad, and trumpeted its broadcast of the Winter Olympics early next year.

Greenblatt said the network’s performance needs to improve.

“We have no illusions about how much work is ahead of us in order to grow our business,” Greenblatt told advertisers at the presentation.

Jay Leno, who will be replaced by comedian Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show” in early 2014, joked in a video duet with Fallon about NBC’s struggles.

“Who knows? We may beat Univision,” Leno sang. NBC lost the February sweeps ratings period this year to Spanish-language network Univision.

Fallon told the crowd to send any complaints about the late night schedule to Greenblatt and flashed an authentic email address for the NBC executive on the screen.

Attendees at NBC’s event said they were impressed with the initial glimpses of the Michael J. Fox comedy as well as drama “The Blacklist,” which stars James Spader as an ex-government agent who is one of the FBI’s most-wanted fugitives.

“‘Blacklist’ stood out to me. I thought it was high drama,” said Greg McLelland, vice president of national sales for Canadian firm Shaw Media, following the event.

Fox also unveiled five new comedies and four dramas. They include “Dads,” the first live-action comedy from “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane, and “Almost Human,” from J.J. Abrams, creator of “Lost.”

Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly said that Fox was making “the biggest investment” to date in programming for the network but declined to comment on the amount.

Reilly said it was likely “American Idol,” which lost 20 percent of its audience this season, would have three judges next year rather than four. Last week, veteran judge Randy Jackson said he would be leaving the show after 12 years.

Wall Street analysts expect broadcast networks to have to settle for lower ad rate increases than they have enjoyed in recent years.

Average prime-time ratings this season have declined 7.5 percent at the four broadcast networks as they compete with cable hits like “The Walking Dead” and “Duck Dynasty,” and streaming services like Netflix Inc.

Netflix, in a bid to shift attention away from the broadcast networks, had a man in a banana suit give out stickers to ad executives outside of the NBC upfront. The stunt promoted “Arrested Development,” a former Fox network sitcom that the Internet streaming service is reviving this month online.

ABC, owned by Walt Disney Co., will present its new schedule to advertisers on Tuesday, followed by CBS on Wednesday.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

NHL

Rangers' speed versus Flyers' size makes interesting playoff…

Among the myriad aspects that will make this Metropolitan Division semifinal series fascinating will be the battle between the Rangers' speed and the Flyers' size,…

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.