Fox Defends US Reality TV Overload

27 October 2004

US media buyers have raised eyebrows at the glut of reality shows scheduled by Fox TV for the pre-Christmas period.

Some have accused the Rupert Murdoch-controlled network of 'creative bankruptcy' as it prepares to air more reality than scripted shows over the next two months- a dubious first in American TV history.

Fox is taking a ratings risk during the November sweeps. Says Kris Magel at ZenithOptimedia: "I'm a little worried about the long-term prospects of the network, because successful scripted programming is what assures its long-term success."

While Lyle Schwartz at Mediaedge:cia says: "It's a ... heavy reality-based schedule that is going to test viewers' appetites for reality shows."

But Fox executives defend the move saying they are keeping their powder dry until the new year which will usher in a host of drama and sitcoms, some brand new and some old favorites.

Preston Beckman, svp for strategic program planning, claims the broadcaster has learned a lesson from NBC's roll-out of scripted shows on the back of Olympic Games ratings. He says many of those shows are now flagging.

He says: "We will be better served in holding most of our scripted shows until the first quarter," and maintains the scheduled reality shows are, in the main, 'advertiser friendly'.

Among the contenders are My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss, for which Beckman claims the same audience appeal as a sitcom, and The Rebel Billionaire.

Says Steve Sternberg, audience analyst at Magna Global: "If either My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss or Rebel Billionaire does well, Fox should be okay until January."

Data sourced from Adweek (USA); additional content by WARC staff