Over the past year or so, Fox Entertainment has ordered four new animated comedy series. The push into animation kicked into high gear just as Disney started the process of acquiring key Fox assets, including 20th Century Fox Television, the studio behind Fox’s venerable animated trio of The Simpsons, Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers.
The massive ramp-up, which also included Fox Entertainment acquiring animation house Bento Box, raised questions whether the network might be preparing for the loss of its iconic (and very expensive) animated titles now that their producer is part of Disney.
“It’s twofold –- it’s part of our business and programming strategy but also preparing for that day (in which Fox says good-bye to The Simpsons, Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers) whenever it comes,” he said about the bulk-up of the network’s animated slate, indicating that the net may be opening a new hourlong comedy block on its schedule.
The Simpsons and Family Guy are in the middle of two-season orders, while Bob’s Burgers is picked up through this current season. Thorn hinted that the Emmy-winning series will be renewed soon. (Animated series’ lengthy production cycle requires long lead time, resulting in early pickups.)
“Bob’s Burgers is going to be on Fox for a long time,” he said.
The first new series from Fox’s current push in animation, Bless the Harts, debuted this fall and already has been renewed for a second season. Coming up are Duncanville, The Great North and Housebroken.
“Animation is a key part of our business; we are really looking to growing our slate and potentially even adding another hour of animation on our schedule in a targeted section of the year,” Thorn said.
“We are looking to take our legacy and build on it,” he added. “Part of that is tied to our programming goals and our Fox Entertainment goals in terms of having an ownership stake in those animated series. When they work, they work extremely well financially as well.”
Fox Entertainment has ownership in all of its new animated series. Meanwhile, the network had been losing money for a while on shows like The Simpsons, which, because of its age, is very expensive but a big profit generator for studio 20th TV.
“Yes, we have to prepare for a day when we don’t have some of our flagship animated shows, but there is no immediate plan where next month these shows are going to be off the air,” Thorn said. “Our ramping up is not tied to the urgency that some may speculate that those shows may go away. We can extend these shows and keep these shows for as long as we like. The producers of those shows love having their shows on Sunday night coming out of football. There is something special being on that night.”
Having the legacy that comes from the three marquee animated shows has helped the network to land competitive animated pitches as it is looking to build its future in the genre, Thorn said