May 13, 2019

NIELSENWAR: The Fall 2019 FOX Schedule & Analysis

We’ve reached the broadcast networks’ Upfront Week… which used to be a lot more central to our television lives than it is now.  Ratings everywhere are down, and there’s no reason to think they’ve hit bottom, which has caused seismic changes in the ways networks make scheduling decisions.  Among other things, with revenues from on-air linear advertising shrinking, distribution rights are key, and the desire for flexibility often means shorter orders than the traditional 13 + 9.  We’ll take a look at each network’s new slate as it’s announced.

FOX, the network in the most advanced state of transition, has set its line-up:

LAST SEASON:  With the single exception of The Masked Singer, there wasn’t much good news to be had.  Just about everything was down, including The Simpsons, 9-1-1, Empire and Last Man Standing, and there were no new scripted hits.  Even if larger events hadn’t intervened, FOX was due for a renovation.

FALL:  But the world changed for FOX when Rupert Murdoch decided to sell the network’s in-house studio, and all its affiliated non-news/sports cable networks to Disney.  In an era where network advertising revenues have a tough time covering programming license fees, that’s a major blow, and new FOX is leaning heavily on sports, with football on Thursdays and now wrestling on Fridays.  The network is being cautious with new shows, at least in the fall.

Monday:  9-1-1 moves to 8PM and serves as the launching pad for PRODIGAL SON, a serial killer procedural (the twist is that the main character’s own father is one of them) from Greg Berlanti’s Warners warehouse, created by Chris Fedak and Sam Sklaver, who last gave us the short-lived Deception.

Tuesday:  The Resident changes nights, but will again be airing against The Voice, probably with similar results.  Perhaps the line-up’s oddest move is the shift of what we now know is the final season of Empire to face off directly against the much stronger This Is Us, which doesn’t seem likely to go well.

Wednesday:  The Masked Singer will give a strong lead-in to NOT JUST ME, a high-concept family soap produced by Jason Katims and created by Annie Weisman, whose credits include Desperate Housewives and The Path.  The plot concerns the connections made between people who learn they’re siblings as a result of their father using his own sperm to inseminate 100 women.  This seems like it will need every ratings point of its lead-in.

Thursday:  Thursday Night Football returns.

Friday:  The network’s biggest fall decision was its acquisition of WWE SMACKDOWN, formerly a staple of USA’s line-up.  Even the cable number would look OK as a broadcast rating these days, so the question will be how much its audience can expand, and how much FOX is paying for the rights..

Sunday:  The Simpsons serves as lead-in to the animated BLESS THE HARTS, a blue-collar cartoon from creator Emily Spivey, who created Up All Night and has ties to Saturday Night Live, which probably helped in gathering a voice cast that includes Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph.  The 9PM slot now hosts Bob’s Burgers, with Family Guy shifted to its lead-out.

MIDSEASON:  The shelves are packed, with dramas 9-1-1: LONE STAR, DEPUTY, FILTHY RICH and neXt, comedies DUNCANVILLE, OUTMATCHED and THE GREAT NORTH, and holdovers Last Man Standing and The Orville.

FORECAST:  The strategy for fall seems to be simply hanging on.  FOX will hope that wrestling and The Masked Singer gives the line-up a leg up, while football keeps the lights on and the network figures out its future.

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."