It was a mixed-to-negative season for FOX Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly.
Yes, he developed and launched “The Following,” which was one of the year’s biggest drama hits.
However, he also watched as “The X Factor” continued to struggle, “American Idol” became increasing mortal and both reality shows continued to hemorrhage judges. He was forced to continue to renew struggling comedies and pretend they were successes. And after giving a surprising two-season renewal to “Glee” last spring, Reilly and FOX now face the challenge of promoting a show coping with a very real tragedy.
Click through to follow Reilly’s Thursday (August 1) morning executive session at the Television Critics Association press tour.
11:05 a.m. We started the day with spirited “Sleepy Hollow” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” panels but now…
11:08 a.m. Kevin Reilly wants to begin by talking about the landscape. TV viewership is up, he tells us. What’s changing is how and where and what they’re watching. He begins by rolling a clip from “Portlandia,” the “No Spoilers” skit.
11:10 a.m. “It’s very dynamic and presents challenges to us and challenges to you,” Reilly says of spoiler culture and the new ways shows are watched. On to “measurement.” FOX’s guys are looking for new ways of reporting ratings and to look at, once again, who’s watching what and where and when. Like everybody else, Reilly wants us to stop doing so much reporting on overnight ratings.
11:12 a.m. “We were down last year and that’s the fact. We’re going to be up this year,” Reilly says, frankly. Looking at the show’s statistics, he wants to remind us that “The Following” was the No.1 new show when you factor in the 65 percent Live+7 lift. Yup. Know that. It seems that 33 percent of “New Girl” viewership happens outside of traditional TV, including VoD and Hulu. With “Family Guy,” outside viewership is even more.
11:17 a.m. Reilly pokes fun at the “unrecorded mystery audience” that Netflix is appealing to. Zing. “I don’t think we’re any bastard step-child or in any sort of broken system,” Reilly says. He notes, however, that there’s room for “modest successes” on networks. He uses “The Mindy Project” as an example of a modest success. Reilly wants to claim that “The Mindy Project” isn’t a “middling performer,” because it does a better 18-49 rating than “Breaking Bad,” “Dexter,” “Mad Men,” “Louie,” “Girls” and basically everything else we like. “You’d have to play ‘Portlandia’ 12 times to equal the rating of ‘New Girl,'” he says. “I just want all of the analysis to be equal,” Reilly demands.
11:20 a.m. “I really respect most of my broadcast competitors. Most of them,” he says, claiming that they’re being bound by “an arbitrary 35-week system” and other old systems. “The audience is less and less embracing of repeats in our in-season window,” he says, claiming that FOX will be trying to push repeats to outside services. He also says that FOX will continue to be in the Fall Premieres business, but FOX will be in a 12-month schedule. “I’d really like to ban the word ‘midseason,'” Reilly says. He reminds us that “24” and “Gang Related” will premiere in May and that “Wayward Pines” will premiere in July and bridge into fall.
11:23 a.m. The first question is about “New Girl” getting the post-Super Bowl slot. “Frankly it’s the best chance to capture audience, the most audience, and monetize it as well,” he says of putting an established show after the Super Bowl.
11:24 a.m. Does Reilly think “24” might have survived in a limited event model if that had existed after the show ended? Reilly says he would have wanted that, but the producers wanted a chance to catch their breath. “This is gonna be set in an international setting. They’ve got a great idea,” Reilly promises. He says that he’s stopped by fans all the time.
11:25 a.m. Today’s first “American Idol” question. “I can’t talk too much about it, because we hav eto continue our yearly tradition of me not being able to say anything about the show,” Reilly says before… NEWS. Keith Urban will, indeed, be back this season. “You could see how much he loved the show,” Reilly says, promising that Urban is funny. He confirms that there have been discussions with Jennifer Lopez, but there is no deal and says that the other names we’ve heard are real. The new producers are planning on tinkering with the middle rounds. The show wants judges “that are good at the job, that people like and that refocus the attention on the contestants,” he says. He wants to concentrate on the kids and admits that last year the focus swung too much towards the judges.
11:28 a.m. “We’re going to have to report those first-blush ratings. They’re not irrelevant,” he admits of morning ratings. What they want to do is give us more data on a more regular basis and he asks us to be a bit more muted on the first-blush ratings. Reilly says it’s harder to adjust to a changing system than it is to start a new one. And he keeps saying “Dynamic Ad Insertion,” which sounds really dirty.
11:30 a.m. Some “X Factor” questions. Why is it so hard to find consistency and why will this work? “I don’t know that it’s been a problem, per se,” Reilly says. “You’re trying to find four judges. You’re trying to good chemistry,” Reilly says, calling Simon Cowell a perfectionist and saying Demi Lovato was a good addition last year and this year they got it right.
11:31 a.m. Cory Monteith question and how things will be dealt with. Reilly calls Lea Michele a “pillar of strength.” The third episode will deal with the Finn character. Ryan Murphy will shoot PSAs that go with the episode and that the episode will deal directly with Monteith’s death and its causes. They’ll talk about how people dealing with addiction are put in categories. “He was not a problem. Everybody loved him,” Reilly says of Monteith who was “very open about it in his past, but not as open about his present.” He says that everybody was shocked, but nobody was really shocked.
11:34 a.m. Reilly can’t confirm, however, if the Finn Hudson character dies of causes related to drugs. He says that iTunes sales from that night will be dedicated to a fund around Cory.
11:34 a.m. Why is “Sleepy Hollow” going on Monday nights? He compares it to “Prison Break” and “24” and calls it “a big tent show and a lot of fun.” “They are just in the sweet spot here,” Reilly says of the producers. “Monday’s been tough for us. We’ve stumbled with a couple of our Monday shows,” Reilly says, referencing “Mob Doctor” last year. “It’s very hard to promote the rest of your week if you’re stumbling on Monday,” Reilly says.
11:35 a.m. Is 18-49 a less important demographic? And can he elaborate on his Netflix comments earlier? “Good for them. They get to live in that world,” Reilly says of Netflix. He praises their early hot hand with originals. Regarding 18-49, Reilly says that CBS is strong in 18-49 at the high end of that demo, while FOX is strong at the low end. Oy. CBS is going to rebut that within the next 3 hours. “They’re extremely valuable to try to get in that concentration and we’re going to continue to operate in that business,” Reilly says.
11:38 a.m. Will the scheduled Friday comedies actually air on Fridays? “Friday is one of the problems we’ve created for ourselves,” Reilly admits. “Friday has its challenges,” Reilly says, but he vows that FOX is going to schedule first run shows there. He admits “There may be some movement around between the shows,” and says that Friday isn’t just for leftovers anymore. Reilly says that he’s given his upper management a three-year plan. “It’s a miracle that these guys can get through 22 a year. It’s very taxing,” Reilly says, though he claims FOX will mostly continue to be in the 22-episode game. “I’d like to get to a place where when we put something on it stays on,” he says.
11:41 a.m. Will “Bones” actually move to Friday? “We have scheduled ‘Bones’ everywhere, which I know Hart [Hanson] loves and God bless him,” Reilly says. “It’s a quality show with a really passionate audience,” Reilly says and he still plans on putting it on Friday to build that night.
11:42 a.m. The first two “Glee” episodes are the Beatles episodes that had already been conceived. They’re going to air those episodes which are “really fun, celebratory episodes” and then the Cory episode will air and then “Glee” will take a hiatus, probably for three weeks.
11:43 a.m. Reilly is committed to growing primetime shows out of the “Animation Domination High Definition” block.
11:44 a.m. A pointed question about how shows like “Mob Doctor” and “Dads” come to exist at all. Are those FOX’s attempts to step outside of what the network thinks is good? Excellent. Reilly knows that “Dads” is going to be an interesting panel. “That’s a pilot,” he reminds us. “These guys are going to try to test a lot of boundaries,” Reilly says, though he admits that the jokes aren’t all in calibration in the pilot. “In sitcom in particular, I think these things tend to stand out a bit more,” Reilly says. He whips out a piece of paper with a ton of negative reviews for… “The Big Bang Theory.” Yes. We know that the “Big Bang Theory” pilot sucked. And we like it more now. Yawn. “We need to get and we want to get back in the multi-cam sitcom business,” he says. “I think that sitcoms tend to stick out a little bit more and get pounced on early,” Reilly says. He asks us to check with the show for a few months and see if it improves. “Let’s have the discussion in January after we’ve produced a number of them,” Reilly says.
11:48 a.m. Reilly wants to get out of the habit of viewing “fall” and “midseason” shows as the important shows. “We just have to stop talking about that and expecting that, before we even start, as the leftovers,” he says. “We have to prove that we’re putting some of our best stuff on in the summer and supporting it,” he says. He vows to fully market summer shows.
11:50 a.m. In this economic climate can something like an event program could take over the network for a full week like the old miniseries model. Reilly admits it’s theoretically possible. “We’re gonna have some more flexibility with those,” he says. He admits that there were a lot of cut-rate and filler miniseries that were made and helped kill that model. They want the new ones to be high quality and roughly like HBO.
11:52 a.m. “I get why you have that issue,” Reilly says when a critic asks why he’s asking us to be patient with “Dads.” He says that equal-opportunity material works if it’s funny. “We’ve gotta earn that and I think the show is going to get richer and better,” Reilly says. “I’m not telling people to deal with offensive things week-in and week-out,” he says. He repeats again that they have to earn things. “I think that the audience will let us know and the ratings will let us know,” he says. “It was a very high-testing pilot,” he insists.
11:54 a.m. Last question: Are there any concerns about Simon Cowell’s personal life? Reilly doesn’t know. And will there be outtakes of previously filmed Cory footage in the third episode? It’s a possibility, he says.
That’s all, folks…