| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES May 4 Fearless counterterrorism
agent Jack Bauer returns to TV on Monday after a four-year
absence as Fox revives Emmy-winning thriller "24" in a
limited-run series, a format the network bets is better tailored
for today's viewing habits.
As audiences shift toward recording shows to watch later on
digital video recorders and have less patience for committing to
months-long traditional TV series, Fox believes a short run of
"24: Live Another Day" will encourage viewers to skip the DVR
and watch the show as it airs.
The rebooted "24," starring Kiefer Sutherland as Bauer, will
be told in 12 episodes, half the length of its preceding eight
That is a formula inspired in part by cable television's
ability to draw respectable ratings by cutting the length of a
show's season, said Joe Earley, chief operating officer of
Twenty-First Century Fox Inc's Fox Broadcasting arm.
"It was clear the audience could not only commit to that
run, but that also in between they would be able to catch up in
their busy lifestyles and VOD (video on demand) and DVR choices.
There's a nice palatable number of 10 to 12 episodes," Earley
"24: Live Another Day," which also stars Mary Lynn Rajskub
as Bauer's sidekick, Chloe O'Brian, picks up as Bauer re-emerges
years after he was forced to go underground for being wanted by
both the United States and Russia.
The frenetic thriller in which each episode represents an
hour in one day, attracted viewers as one of TV's top shows from
2001 to 2010, as Bauer raced against a ticking clock to foil
plots through guile, guns, gadgets, fists and controversially,
It won 20 Emmy Awards during its eight-season run, including
best drama series, Sutherland for best actor in a drama series,
and best writing for a drama. At its peak in 2006, "24" drew
nearly 14 million viewers on average.
LIVE SPORTS IDEAL
A major appeal for networks to draw audiences to watching
live is that later viewing on DVR has less value to advertisers.
By limiting a series to fewer episodes, it can create an
event-like draw akin to a sporting event or awards show, TV's
most-watched programs, said Brad Adgate, senior vice president
and research director for media firm Horizon Media.
"You want to sit and watch it in real-time, you want to talk
about it on social media," Adgate said. "The ads can't be
zapped. There's a tremendous amount of upside."
Networks have also tried their hands at special live
programming and limited-run series to draw in viewers.
CBS' supernatural drama "Under the Dome," which will
return in June, led all scripted series in average viewers last
summer with about 12 million an episode.
Fox's own cable network FX recently launched the event
series "Fargo," starring Hollywood actors Billy Bob Thornton and
Martin Freeman, as a reimagining of the Oscar-winning 1996 film.
It drew a respectable 2.7 million viewers live, but added 1.8
million in DVR viewers over a three-day span.
NBC has had its own luck with the format,
attracting 19 million viewers to watch its live production last
year of "The Sound of Music," starring singer Carrie Underwood.
It will follow up with a live production of "Peter Pan"
later this year and the horror miniseries "Rosemary's Baby" this
month, an adaptation of the Ira Levin book that Roman Polanski
brought to the big screen with Mia Farrow in 1968.
"24" executive producer Evan Katz believes that since the
show began in 2001, viewing habits have changed to the point
where committing to watch 24 episodes on a week-by-week basis
could be too much to ask from an audience.
"I also think it is more special," Katz said on a media
conference call about reviving "24" as a limited-run series.
"It's not going to happen all the time. It's not taking
place over a year. This is a chunk of time. And it gives the
network the opportunity to put more oomph behind its launch."
(Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Peter Cooney)