In stark contrast to NBC president Robert Greenblatt’s triumphant entrance Sunday, former NBC head and current Fox chairman Kevin Reilly began his network’s presentation to the Television Critics Association in Pasadena, Calif., on a much humbler note, admitting that Fox is “limping our way in out of 2012,” he said. “No one is happier than us to turn the page.” But even NBC’s Greenblatt conceded earlier this week that January is traditionally where Fox’s ratings come alive, thanks primarily to the return of “American Idol,” which debuts with new judges Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban Jan. 16.
‘The X Factor’ vs. ‘The Voice’
The second season of Fox’s latest Simon Cowell-fronted competition, “The X Factor,” faced some stiff competition itself from Reilly’s former employer. “It was slightly on the cheesy side,” Reilly said of NBC putting a cycle of “The Voice” up opposite “The X Factor” in September. “It went in the file for later reference.” While numbers for the British import dropped this year, Reilly stayed upbeat. “Pound for pound, I think ‘The X Factor’ was excellent this year,” he said. “Last year, the ratings were a little bit higher, but I think it was a better show this year.”
As for how new “X Factor” judge Britney Spears fared, Reilly praised the singer and dodged speculation that she might not be returning to the show. “I actually think it went very, very well. I mean, it was sort of fraught with unknowns, and I think Britney did a very good job,” he said. “For next year, I don’t know. Simon’s been on vacation; he hasn’t talked about any of this going forward.”
Keeping up with cable violence
Reilly continually pointed to the success of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” as something the network is aware of and looking to keep up with, especially where Fox’s new serial killer drama, “The Following,” is concerned. “There have been more violent shows on TV. Clearly there is appetite; people like these things,” he said. “When you put on a thriller you have to compete at that level. We must match the intensity, otherwise we’ll pale in comparison.”