Can These New Fox Shows Rake in More Cash?

Fox lagged the other networks at upfronts last year, leaving millions on the table. With strong returning shows and an intriguing development slate, will 2014 be different?

Apr 21, 2014 at 10:30AM

This May when advertisers gather in New York for television's annual upfronts event, Fox (NASDAQ:FOX) will look to improve upon last year's sale commitments of $1.8 billion (CBS, by comparison pulled in more than $2.5 billion ). This is roughly similar to Fox's 2012 performance, so now the question becomes, will Fox's new slate woo advertisers?


Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Fox's ratings in 2014 have been heavily buoyed by football—the network aired both the Super Bowl and the NFC Championship this year. But this March, with football in the rear window, the network averaged the lowest ratings among the coveted 18-49 demographic. Even the perennial ratings juggernaut American Idol is underperforming .

In the 2011-2012 season, advertisers paid between $468,100 and $502,900 for a 30-second spot on American Idol , the network's highest grossing show. In 2012-2013, that number dropped to an average of $355,946 . Given this year's drop in ratings, that number is likely to sink even lower this May.

Some of Fox's other big money makers saw drops in revenue over the last two years as well. In 2012, the Zooey Deschanel hit New Girl pulled in $320,940 for a 30-second spot . In 2013, that number was down to $231,570 . Since this year's ratings—an average 3.59 million viewers—are a steep drop from the first season's 6.36 million , advertisers are unlikely to match last year's prices.

Even The Simpsons saw a 19.1% drop from its 2012 price, landing at roughly $231,500 for a 30-second spot last year .

With its existing money-makers demonstrating declining ratings, Fox will have to impress buyers with some new projects. Let's look at what it has on tap.

Upcoming shows
The network has already given a 13-episode order to drama Backstrom, a project previously developed at CBS that follows a self-destructive detective played by Rainn Wilson (The Office). It might be a risky move, as viewers did not respond to Rake, which followed another familiar face (Greg Kinnear) as a self-destructive attorney .

Simultaneously, the network has also committed to 13 episodes of Hieroglyph, a historical-fantasy following a thief hired to work for the Pharaoh . But elaborate and fantastic set pieces call to mind the big-budget failure that was Fox's 2011's Terra Nova. The series was canceled after just a few months of airing in fall 2011. Reportedly the pilot episode cost $14 million and each following episode $4 million, but the show's average 7.2 million viewers could not justify that spending . Hieroglyph could therefore seem like déjà vu for advertisers.

This leaves a narrow playing field for the remaining drama pilots that Fox has in contention. A series order seems likely for Batman prequel Gotham, which features familiar faces like Ben McKenzie (Southland, The OC) and Donal Logue (Sons of Anarchy, Grounded for Life). In an era where comic properties continue to be safe box office bets, you can be sure Fox will take a close look at this hero and villain series .

Despite the declining ratings of both Glee and American Idol , Fox seems to insist on considering music programs. Gaining buzz this pilot season is Empire, which depicts a family in the world of hip-hop production . This show hails from Ron Howard and Brian Grazer's Imagine Entertainment and will feature original and current music. Still, it's important to note that neither Idol nor Glee ever launched new hip-hop artists (or generated revenue in hip-hop downloads), so Empire could in fact be a smart move on Fox's part to get into a new market, hopefully while simultaneously revitalizing Idol with new (and cheaper) hosts .

But while its dramas seem like big risks, Fox's pre-ordered comedies seem to tread on very safe territory. For instance, the semi-autobiographical project Mulaney, is based on the life and early career of comedian John Mulaney . This is a concept that has done well for cable counterpart FX with Louie . Lastly, the network also ordered six episodes of a project titled Weird Loners, following four anti-social people who become unlikely friends in New York City .

Bottom line
It's clear that Fox is anticipating some skepticism from buyers this May and complementing what might be big-budget risks with safer, more affordable comedies. But with Idol past its prime and no clear breakaway hit, it seems unlikely it will be able to improve upon 2013's sales. 

Your cable company is scared, but you can get rich
You know cable's going away. But do you know how to profit? There's $2.2 trillion out there to be had. Currently, cable grabs a big piece of it. That won't last. And when cable falters, three companies are poised to benefit. Click here for their names. Hint: They're not Netflix, Google, and Apple. 


Aimee Duffy has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers