Upfronts: Day Four – Fox

When Helena Shelton, MediaCom's EVP/director of trading, emerged from Fox's upfront presentation yesterday, she was welcomed by 12 cows from the largest dairy farm in Jersey. Their handlers were giving out Fringe promo cards that read, 'Genetically humans and cows are separated by only a couple of lines of DNA.'

While everyone in New York is talking about tearing down Yankee Stadium, we were wondering if the Fox upfront at City Centre would deliver a home run. And it pretty much did. This one had assigned seating, very civilized, but muffled sound in our section made it difficult to understand what they were saying.

The show began with the big Fox stars on the stage, from 24‘s Kiefer Sutherland to AMW‘s John Walsh. The presentation was pretty positive even without words like ‘engagement.’ They told us TV sports is ‘a robust weapon, drawing viewers.’ One we hadn’t heard all week, but makes sense, is ‘The consumer comes first’ on FOX. All of this from what began as the upstart network – now number one with the 18-49 set (their words).

They promised to continue to be innovators. The two new shows they are launching will run as what they refer to as ‘remote-free TV.’ These shows will air with only five commercial minutes, half the current norm, and with non-standard cluster sizes. The remote-free TV shows are Fringe from JJ Abrams (producer of Lost), who now brings us a sci-fi drama about an FBI agent, a scientist and his genius son, who investigate mysterious events such as genetic mutation. Fringe seems to be their biggie; they really talked it up. Then there was Dollhouse, about five people who have their personalities and memories erased and are later reprogrammed as other people, starring Eliza Dushku from Buffy.

They presented some mid-season offerings and ideas for next year that were not complete, a spinoff of Family Guy called The Cleveland Show and Sit Down Shut Up, both animated comedies. Do Not Disturb is about hired help at a hip NYC Hotel starring Jerry O’Connell. Fox’s contribution to this year’s reality offerings is Secret Millionaire, about rich guys who go undercover as poor guys and give away money. Finally, Courtroom K, a legal drama from the producers of House, pretty much sum up what was shown.

As the clock was hitting the magical one-hour mark and everyone was getting ready to race for the bar, Kiefer Sutherland came back to tell us that 24 would launch with a two-hour premiere in November, and that the season would begin in January. He also told us 24 is the only carbon-neutral show produced (I’m guessing he meant in the world). The big finale was dancers from So You Think You Can Dance with a performance almost as good as what the CTV media stars did last year. On the way out we saw 12 cows from the largest dairy farm in Jersey hanging around in midtown Manhattan. Their handlers were giving out Fringe promo cards that read, ‘Genetically humans and cows are separated by only a couple of lines of DNA.’ I have to tell you, cows in NYC get everyone’s attention.

The party was in Central Park, but this writer decided to opt out for another type of attraction. In a week or so we’ll see what the Canadians come back with from their LA program shopping trip.

Helena Shelton is EVP/director of trading at Toronto-based MediaCom.