NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fox Broadcasting unveiled a U.S. prime-time TV lineup that looks to new comedies, the magic touch of Hollywood director Steven Spielberg and the success of musical series “Glee” to bolster a schedule that has been tops with young audiences for six years running.
The biggest question left unanswered on Monday by Fox — the second broadcast network to unveil its 2010-11 television schedule — is how it plans to cope with the departure of American Idol judge Simon Cowell, long seen as the face of the most popular TV show in the United States.
Fox executives said on a conference call they are exploring new formats for the show, while looking for a replacement for Cowell with pop music credibility.
“There’s no bigger question for the summer,” said Peter Rice, chairman, entertainment, Fox Networks Group.
Fox, owned by News Corp, follows NBC in taking the wraps off its 2010-11 prime-time schedule. Walt Disney Co’s ABC and CBS Corp’s CBS are up next, before TV executives get down to the business of negotiating billions of dollars of TV ad sales in the annual bazaar known as the upfront market.
With the expected rebound in the advertising market from the lows of 2009, sales are likely to be up during this year’s upfronts, so named because the dealmaking occurs before the TV season actually begins. By some estimates, ad dollars could be up 20 percent for the big four broadcast networks.
Fox finds itself in better shape than most of its rivals, because of its popularity with 18-49 year-old viewers. That can largely be attributed to the long-running success of “American Idol,” as well as hit dramas such as “24” and “House.”
But with Cowell leaving Idol and “24” finally coming to an end this year, Fox is entering uncharted territory and is taking a bet on new shows like Steven Spielberg-produced “Terra Nova,” a sci-fi adventure series about a family who travels back in time millions of years.
“Terra Nova,” slated to kick off in second half of the season, also sees the return to Fox of former News Corp chief Peter Chernin, who joins Spielberg in producing credits.
Fox is also placing a big bet on comedies this season, starting with a new look Tuesday night this fall.
The night will be anchored by “Glee,” which will be followed by two new comedies, “Raising Hope,” about a dysfunctional family, and “Running Wilde,” a romantic comedy featuring Will Arnett of “Arrested Development” as a playboy trying to win the love of Keri Russell, star of “Felicity.”
In the spring, Fox will premiere another comedy on Tuesday nights called “Mixed Signals,” a relationship comedy that the network hopes will prove popular with female viewers.
Fox, which has had huge success over the years on Sunday nights with animated comedies like “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy” and “The Cleveland Show,” will debut yet another this spring, called “Bob’s Burgers.” It, too, will be a Sunday offering.
And “Glee,” which was the No. 1 new series of this season, will get an extra boost when Fox places the show in the coveted slot after February’s Super Bowl. Executives described the decision as a move to ‘supersize’ Glee’s already huge popularity.
In addition to “Terra Nova,” Fox took the wraps off two other dramas for 2010-11. “Lonestar,” a Texas-based drama likened to 80s hit show “Dallas,” will premiere on Monday nights in the fall. Then, midseason, Fox will bring on the Chicago-based police drama “Ride-Along” from Shawn Ryan, creator of “The Shield” and “The Unit.”
All of the new comedies and dramas will be tucked in between already well-known shows to ensure they don’t get lost in the ratings battle, according to Fox executives.
“We’re going to use all of our strongest assets to support the new shows,” said Fox President of Entertainment Kevin Reilly. “None of these new shows are going to be hanging out there trying to make a go of it.”
Reporting by Yinka Adegoke; Editing by Steve Orlofsky