Fox Broadcast Company is heading into the 2018-19 development season as a soon-to-be independent network.
There has been great uncertainty in the marketplace what FBC will look like after its sister studio –and predominant supplier of scripted series — 20th Century Fox TV, goes to Disney as part of several key assets that are being acquired. Since the Disney-Fox acquisition was originally announced late last year, FBC has struck two big programming deals, both in the sports/live programming arena — for Thursday Night Football and WWE SmackDown, further fueling speculation that ‘New Fox’ may be relying less on scripted programming and more on sports, reality and live entertainment.
But in a series of meetings with talent agencies over the past two months, Fox Entertainment president Michael Thorn and his team have stressed that FBC is still very much in the scripted business and plans to order a similar number of pilots to last season though the volume of its script buys will likely be lower as the network plans more targeted development. And with no sister studio in the foreseeable future, I hear Fox plans to take control over developing shows.
I hear the network is looking to buy pitches directly from creators and producers with no studio attached and to develop them internally before partnering up with an outside studio, likely one of the independents, to produce them. Acting somewhat like a studio, the network even plans to make talent deals directly with writers and actors, I hear.
Despite talk very early on that New Fox may invest into building a new in-house studio for FBC or acquire a TV studio to succeed 20th TV, that appears unlikely at the moment, with FBC instead going for partial ownership in the series it buys from outside studios.
That would make FBC’s indie network model more feasible in a vertically-integrated industry that relies heavily on program ownership, so the net doesn’t run into a situation like Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Fox in May canceled the praised cop comedy after five season. For the network, it was an expensive series, with a license fee said to be around $1.9 an episode, and it did not own it. The comedy was then picked up by NBC whose sister studio Universal TV produces the series and makes money on off-network/SVOD deals that help offset its high network license fee. (Fox this year also ended two other popular series it has no ownership in, Warner Bros. TV’s Gotham, picked up for an abbreviated final season, and Lucifer, since picked up by Netflix.)
As to what kind of series Fox is looking to buy for next season, following the success last season of breakout hit 9-1-1 and, to some extent, The Resident, I hear the network is in the market for more procedural dramas, though it also is open to other genres.
On the comedy side, Fox is interested in both multi-camera and single-camera projects after a major programming shift this year from an all-single-camera comedy lineup last season to an all-multi-camera one this coming season.
While all half-hour series on Fox’s schedule for next season are multi-camera, the network has single-camera off-cycle pilot Bless This Mess, which I hear has been received very well early on and has been excelling in testing.