May 14, 2018

NIELSENWAR: FOX Fall Schedule & Analysis (Includes 5-Network Grid)


Welcome to Upfronts week, when the broadcast networks (or what’s left of them) announce their Fall schedules and attempt to generate billions of dollars worth of excitement from advertisers.  It’s harder than ever to authoritatively analyze the thought process that goes into a broadcaster’s cancellation, renewal and pick-up decisions, because network ad revenues directly tied to 18-49 ratings are now just a piece of the puzzle.  Other projected and actual revenue streams, especially international and SVOD deals (all of which require some level of ownership by the network’s affiliated studio), are now at least as important, as is delayed viewing on multiple platforms–when that viewing includes commercials.  Much of that information is kept away from the public, requiring guesswork on the part of observers.

Every broadcast network is being forced to deal with the many changes that have hit the industry over the past several years, but FOX has an existential crisis all its own.  It’s likely that by this time next year, the corporate assets surrounding the FOX network (aside from Fox News, Fox Business and a few others) will be owned by another entity, at this point probably Disney/ABC or Comcast/NBC.  Most importantly, that means the network’s affiliated studio will be separately owned, and FOX will instantly go from owning all the revenue streams of most of its on-air shows to owning none of them.  No one knows how those economics will work, and there’s been speculation that on a long-term basis, FOX will concentrate on live sports and low-cost unscripted programming.  For now, though, anti-trust laws require that FOX act as though none of this is happening, and pursue business as usual.  That’s led to a new fall schedule that’s both radical (changes on every night) and deeply conservative (no new dramas at all, and–not counting the revived, relocated Last Man Standing–only 2 new multicamera sitcoms).

A closer look is below the chart:

FOX’s Fall 2018 Primetime Schedule added to 5-Network Grid below. Analysis to follow.

Fall 2018 Broadcast Primetime Schedule NBC FOX



8PM:  The Resident

9PM:  9-1-1

9-1-1 was FOX’s only breakout hit of the season, and while The Resident was far less successful (and underperformed ABC’s Monday medical hit The Good Doctor), it did well enough to earn a renewal.  This pairing makes sense and should give the network a gain for the night.


8PM:  The Gifted

9PM:  Lethal Weapon

The Gifted was struggling by the end of its short season (although it recovered for a successful finale), and since its value to FOX is mostly through its studio’s X-Men ties, it’s a question mark going forward.  Lethal Weapon is now a question mark as well, due to the behind-the-scenes issues that caused a recasting of one of its leads.


8PM:  Empire

9PM:  Star

Although Empire isn’t the blockbuster it was when it began, it’s still one of the higher-rated dramas on TV, and even continued erosion will leave it a success for at least another season or two.  Star has worked well as its companion piece.



FOX outbid NBC and CBS for THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL, and it will definitely give the network a Thursday lift, although as usual with the NFL at an enormous cost.




9PM:  Hell’s Kitchen

The obvious hope is that LAST MAN STANDING will have some version of Roseanne‘s phenomenal success (Tim Allen loves Trump too!), although even half that rating would be a solid win.  FOX is tipping its hand as to what kind of audience it expects for the reboot by pairing it with THE COOL KIDS, a multicamera sitcom set in an old-age home, co-written by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s Charlie Day (with Paul Fruchbom).  Hell’s Kitchen is a lost-cost, low risk hour.


8PM:  The Simpsons

8:30PM:  Bob’s Burgers

9PM:  Family Guy

9:30PM:  REL

Bob’s Burgers gets a promotion into “real” primetime, the only downside being that since it will now air every Sunday during the fall, the network won’t have the extra episodes it’s had in the past to use on midseason Sundays.  REL stars, is co-written by, and is based loosely on the life of Lil Rel Howery (the other writers are Kevin Barnett and Josh Rabinowitz), and it will stand or fall on whether he becomes a breakout star.  The status of The Simpsons and Family Guy after next season, once they’re owned (presumably) by a studio tied to another network, will be one of the most-watched consequences of the upcoming corporate moves.

FOX is holding its new dramas, the horror saga THE PASSAGE and legal procedural PROVEN INNOCENT, for midseason, and will also have the returns of The Orville and Gotham, the latter for its final edition.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."