Fox banks on dinosaurs, Simon Cowell in new TV lineup
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fox Broadcasting is calling on the hitmaking power of Simon Cowell and Steven Spielberg to sustain its standing with younger viewers, with one offering up another splashy talent show and the other bringing a prehistoric world to network TV.
Fox will also add four new comedies, two animated and two live action, along with another two dramas to its 2011-12 prime-time TV schedule, already anchored by hits such as "American Idol" and "Bones."
Network executives, in unveiling their new schedule on Monday, said Cowell's "The X Factor" would run this fall on Wednesday and Thursday nights, mirroring the midseason strategy is uses for "American Idol."
"We feel we have the gold standard in both 'Idol' and 'X Factor,'" Fox Networks Group Chairman Peter Rice said on a conference call. "In Simon Cowell we have the absolute star of the genre at the pinnacle of his game."
Based on the British hit, "The X Factor" is yet another in the growing list of talent shows that are spread across broadcast television. It will comprise a judging panel of Cowell, British singer Cheryl Cole, record producer Antonio "L.A." Reid and Paula Abdul, who quit "Idol" two years ago in a contract dispute.
Fox's other new tentpole show -- the sort that, when successful, can get entire families to gather around the television set -- is a far cry from Fox's talent shows.
Called "Terra Nova," the Spielberg-produced drama is an account of a family that travels back 85 million years, confronting dinosaurs and assorted bad guys. The show, which was previewed for advertisers a year ago, will debut on Mondays this fall ahead of the medical drama "House."
Broadcast television struggled last season in introducing big, broad dramas, almost all of which failed to win audiences, and the costly "Terra Nova" will be under pressure to perform.
In discussing the show, Kevin Reilly, who heads up entertainment at Fox, called it "one of the most ambitious undertakings we've been involved in" and "unlike anything you've seen before."
Fox, a division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, will introduce its new lineup to advertisers later Monday. Comcast Corp's NBC, Walt Disney Co's ABC and CBS, owned by CBS Corp, are also taking the wraps off their 2011-12 schedules this week.
The industry then will get down to the business of negotiating the bulk of the advertising time for the season, an annual event known as the upfront market.
Fox comes to the negotiating table with a prime-time lineup that is already tops with younger viewers -- those most prized by advertisers -- and with few holes to fill in its schedule.
Other than its "The X Factor" and "Terra Nova," Fox will roll out four new comedies in 2011-12, including two animated series: "Allen Gregory," featuring a precocious 7-year-old, and "Napoleon Dynamite," based on the popular movie.
Its other comedies include "New Girl," starring Zooey Deschanel, who has appeared in movies such as "500 Days of Summer," and a comedy about single moms called "I Hate My Teenage Daughter."
At midseason, Fox will introduce the "The Finder," a crime drama about a former military cop with a special power, and "Alcatraz," from producer J.J. Abrams, the executive behind "Lost" and "Star Trek."
(Reporting by Paul Thomasch. Editing by Robert MacMillan)
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