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Fox Starts Tuesday Comedy Block to Bolster Schedule

May 17 (Bloomberg) -- News Corp.’s Fox television, the most-watched U.S. broadcast network among younger viewers, is adding four comedies to its prime-time schedule following a decline in ratings for “American Idol.”

The network is introducing a comedy block on Tuesdays, anchored by the second season of “Glee” and the new shows “Raising Hope” and “Running Wilde,” Fox said today in an e-mailed statement. Fox is also adding three dramas, including “Terra Nova,” from producer Steven Spielberg.

Fox is turning to comedy and well-known producers to revitalize its lineup after ratings for the network’s two most-watched shows “American Idol” and “House” slumped this season. Simon Cowell, “Idol’s” sharp-tongued judge, is leaving the talent show at the end of this season, and Fox also has to replace the hit “24” and its star Kiefer Sutherland.

“It’s going to be our chance to really turn on the lights again in live-action comedy,” Kevin Reilly, president of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting, said on a conference call today. “Glee” provides “the best opportunity we’ve had in a long time to be a platform for new comedies.”

Ratings for “Idol,” TV’s most-watched show, will be down about 9 percent this season, which is “pretty good” compared with other TV shows, Fox Entertainment Chairman Peter Rice said on the call. When “Idol” returns for its 10th season, the show will feature more performances and shorter episodes announcing the competition’s results, Rice said.

‘Running Wilde’

“We have to find a judge to replace Simon who provides both music credibility and incredible entertainment value,” Rice said. “That’s what we’re going to have to focus on doing this summer.”

“Running Wilde” stars Will Arnett of “Arrested Development” as a Beverly Hills jerk who falls for an environmentalist played by Keri Russell. “Raising Hope” is a family comedy from the producer of “My Name is Earl.” The only new shows premiering in the fall are the two comedies and the drama “Lonestar,” which follows a man juggling two identities in Texas.

“House,” “The Simpsons,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Bones,” “Fringe,” “The Cleveland Show,” along with “Human Target” are among the slate of returning shows.

‘Time Traveling Family’

“They’re relying on some of their old shows for another year,” said Andy Donchin, director of media investments at Carat North America, a New York-based advertising agency whose clients include Papa John’s International Inc. “Unfortunately, a lot of the new stuff just doesn’t work so they’re relying on the old shows that have a solid year or two left.”

Fox programs from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., fewer hours than competitors that air original shows in the 10 p.m. slot that Fox reserves for local news.

“Terra Nova,” co-produced by News Corp.’s former chief operating officer, Peter Chernin, tells the story of a time traveling family that goes to prehistoric Earth as part of a mission to save the human race. While no start date has been set, the show is slated to premiere mid-season, according to the statement.

Fox’s so-called upfront ad sales, those locked in ahead of the season, will increase 14 percent from last year’s $1.6 billion, Spencer Wang, an analyst with Credit Suisse, wrote in an April 29 report. That compares with projected gains of 20 percent to 30 percent for Fox’s competitors, Wang said. Last year sales across the industry fell during the U.S. recession.

Prime-Time Audience

Fox has already struck some advertising deals for the February 2011 Super Bowl, Jon Nesvig, president of sales for Fox Broadcasting, said on the call.

“It’s a good predictor of prime time, too,” Nesvig said. “We think it bodes well for the overall marketplace.”

Fox will air a special episode of “Glee” following the Super Bowl, according to the statement.

News Corp., based in New York, rose 8 cents to $14.03 at 4 p.m. New York time in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. The shares have gained 2.5 percent this year.

Fox’s average prime-time audience among the 18-to-49-year-olds advertisers covet is up 1.7 percent to 4.81 million in the TV season that started in September, according to Nielsen Co. data. The network’s total viewers have gained 3 percent to 9.98 million, ranking second behind CBS.

NBC, the U.S. network with the smallest prime-time audience, announced yesterday that it is adding five new comedies and seven dramas to rebuild its lineup after the failed experiment with Jay Leno at 10 p.m. CBS Corp. and Walt Disney Co.’s ABC will present their schedules later this week to advertisers in advance of the TV season that starts in September.

Fox fall 2010 prime-time schedule
(All times ET)

MONDAY
8:00-9:00 PM   HOUSE
9:00-10:00 PM  LONESTAR (new)

TUESDAY
8:00-9:00 PM   GLEE
9:00-9:30 PM   RAISING HOPE (new)
9:30-10:00 PM  RUNNING WILDE (new)

WEDNESDAY
8:00-9:00 PM   LIE TO ME
9:00-10:00 PM  HELL’S KITCHEN

THURSDAY
8:00-9:00 PM   BONES
9:00-10:00 PM  FRINGE

FRIDAY
8:00-9:00 PM   HUMAN TARGET
9:00-10:00 PM  THE GOOD GUYS


SATURDAY
8:00-8:30 PM   COPS
8:30-9:00 PM   COPS
9:00-10:00 PM  AMERICA’S MOST WANTED

SUNDAY
7:00-8:00 PM   THE OT (NFL post-game)
8:00-8:30 PM   THE SIMPSONS
8:30-9:00 PM   THE CLEVELAND SHOW
9:00-9:30 PM   FAMILY GUY
9:30-10:00 PM  AMERICAN DAD


Fox midseason prime-time schedule
(All times ET)

MONDAY
8:00-9:00 PM   HOUSE
9:00-10:00 PM  LONESTAR (new) / RIDE-ALONG (new)

TUESDAY
8:00-9:30 PM   AMERICAN IDOL Performance Show
9:30-10:00 PM  RUNNING WILDE (new) / MIXED SIGNALS (new; spring)

WEDNESDAY
8:00-8:30 PM   RAISING HOPE (new)
8:30-9:00 PM   AMERICAN IDOL Results Show
9:00-10:00 PM  GLEE

THURSDAY
8:00-9:00 PM   BONES
9:00-10:00 PM  FRINGE

FRIDAY
8:00-9:00 PM   HUMAN TARGET
9:00-10:00 PM  KITCHEN NIGHTMARES

SATURDAY
8:00-8:30 PM   COPS
8:30-9:00 PM   COPS
9:00-10:00 PM  AMERICA’S MOST WANTED

SUNDAY
7:00-7:30 PM   THE SIMPSONS (encores)
7:30-8:00 PM   AMERICAN DAD
8:00-8:30 PM   THE SIMPSONS
8:30-9:00 PM   BOB’S BURGERS (new)
9:00-9:30 PM   FAMILY GUY
9:30-10:00 PM  THE CLEVELAND SHOW

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Rabil in New York at srabil@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jennifer Sondag at jsondag@bloomberg.net

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