Fox, NBC turn to familiar faces to boost viewership

Mon May 13, 2013 3:10pm EDT
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By Liana B. Baker and Lisa Richwine

(Reuters) - Broadcast networks Fox and NBC are turning to proven favorites to lure new viewers next season, with Fox rebooting the defunct Kiefer Sutherland action series "24" and NBC bringing back Michael J. Fox in a comedy loosely based on his life.

The two networks pitched their TV schedules to advertisers on Monday at the start of the "upfront" selling season, an annual rite when broadcasters try to persuade advertisers to shell out billions of dollars in advance for their new shows.

NBC and Fox need new hits to fill out their lineups, which may explain why both are bringing back stars from the past.

Prime time ratings at News Corp-owned Fox slumped 16.7 percent this year, according to Nielsen data provided by Horizon Media and based on live viewing and those who record and watch the show the same day. The decline stemmed largely from a dwindling audience for singing contest "American Idol."

Viewership at Comcast-owned NBC remained flat this season while that of its rivals declined. NBC is so far in third place this year among total viewers based on same-day viewing but has been in the ratings cellar for years.

At a presentation at New York's Radio City Music Hall, NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt highlighted "The Michael J. Fox Show," a new semi-autobiographical comedy about a father with Parkinson's. Fox starred on NBC in 1980s sitcom "Family Ties."

The network also announced the return of "Will & Grace" star Sean Hayes to its schedule in "Sean Saves the World," a sitcom about a divorced gay dad, and trumpeted its broadcast of the Winter Olympics early next year.

Greenblatt said the network's performance needs to improve.   Continued...

U.S. actor Michael J. Fox arrives on the red carpet for the 46th 'Goldene Kamera' (Golden Camera) awards ceremony at the Ullstein Auditorium in Berlin, February 5, 2011. REUTERS/Thomas Peter