In ratings challenge, NBC and Fox revive old favorites
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.
Fox is suffering from a 20 percent decline in the audience for once-unbeatable singing contest "American Idol," while NBC has been trying to climb out of the ratings cellar for years.
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 viewing the day the show airs.
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.
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 disease. Fox starred on NBC in 1980s sitcom "Family Ties."
The network also announced "Will & Grace" star Sean Hayes will return in "Sean Saves the World," a sitcom about a divorced gay dad, and trumpeted its Winter Olympics broadcast in February. It plans 17 new shows throughout next season.
Bringing back former stars is no sure thing. Fox has not starred in a lead role since "Spin City" went off the air 12 years ago. Hayes' "Will & Grace" ended its run in 2006. Continued...