Fox has been aggressive in the early going this buying season, snapping pitches preemptively in premium deals, including two pilot production commitments and one put pilot. That will likely continue because there is a lot more money where that came from. “We plan to invest approximately $150 million more this year, primarily driven by our acquisition and support of new series,” Fox chairman Kevin Reilly said during parent company 21st Century Fox’s Investor Day yesterday. (21st Century Fox COO Chase Carey also mentioned the figure during the company’s earnings call on Tuesday.) “Our programming spend, including a sizable lift in development, will increase by more than 10%. And, our marketing investment will grow more than 25%.” That represents the strongest programming budget increase at the network in many years. And comes on the heels of a big splash in May when Fox ordered 11 new scripted series (5 comedies, 4 dramas, 2 limited series) vs. 5 (3 comedies, 2 dramas) in May 2012. “In fact, the series we’ve ordered for this coming season represent the biggest investment in programming and marketing in the history of our network,” Reilly said.
The increase is in line with the newly spun off 21st Century Fox’s overall focus on content creation. Additionally, Fox is faced with aging hits like American Idol and Bones and is looking to groom potential replacements. But most of all, the network is steering away from low-performing repeats on its air while pursuing opportunities to monetize them on other platforms. “This season we’ll be within striking distance of one of our primary long-term goals: virtually year-round original programming,” Reilly said. That strategy requires a very deep bench of shows as the current TV production model does not allow for more than 24-25 original episodes from a traditional series a year. Fox is mixing that up with 13-episode limited series like 24: Live Another Day and Wayward Pines. In addition to the number of premium development commitment, since May Fox also has given an episodic order to another event series, adaptation of UK drama Broadchurch.