Tag Archives: Dana Walden

8 Ways Fox Could Keep Empire’s Momentum Going After the Season Finale

Fox Empire momentum

The only thing that could stop Empire’s continued meteoric rise, it turns out, was the hip-hop soap opera’s 12-episode Season 1 duration. As the drama ends its first season tonight — likely with one final week of record ratings — Fox needs to figure out how to keep Empire’s viewers engaged, and hopefully still tuned in, between Thursday and whenever the show returns for Season 2. As I wrote at Adweek,

In the interim, there are several opportunities for the network to capitalize on Empire’s massive audience and goose the network’s ratings, without tarnishing the still-expanding brand before it has a chance to realize its full potential.

I came up with eight feasible suggestions, including one of my favorite ideas:

Launch an Empire-centric hip-hop competition

In addition to maintaining Empire’s momentum, Fox would also love to find a new fall music competition to replace The X Factor, which bowed out in fall 2013. That’s one reason that Walden and co-chairman Gary Newman have been meeting with Simon Cowell about creating a new competition show.

Now, its best opportunity for not only a new competition show, but also one that doesn’t just feel like a Voice/American Idol clone, has just fallen into the network’s lap. Taking another page from Glee, Fox should mount a truncated version of Oxygen’s The Glee Project in the fall, in which aspiring hip-hop artists show off their vocal skills and compete for a featured role in Empire Season 2.

The network could run it in early fall, well before Empire’s second season, sprinkle in Empire cast guest appearances every week and tease new footage from the upcoming season. One essential element: the involvement of Timbaland, the show’s executive music producer.

This … is American Hip-Hop Idol!

There are plenty more where that came from, so make sure you read the whole story!

8 Ways Fox Could Keep Empire’s Momentum Going After the Season Finale

Fox is Rebuilding Its Slate, One Hit at a Time

dana walden

Dana Walden received a baptism by fire when she and Gary Newman took over as co-chairmen and co-CEOs of Fox Television Group last summer. But after enduring a brutal fall, the network is back on trick thanks to Empire, one of the biggest new hits in decades. Walden sat down with me for this Adweek profile about her rollercoaster first year on the job. She talked to me about the good, the bad and — going to back to last fall — the ugly:

Yes. Going in, Gary and I always anticipated that this was going to be a really tough fall. We were encouraged by Gotham, encouraged by Sunday night. I felt like our job as the new leaders was to stay focused on the positive momentum and point to things that establish what we wanted to do in the future. That was a far better approach than being mired in how demoralizing the overnights can be.

And now that Empire’s ratings keep soaring (seven consecutive weeks of ratings increases and counting!), she says the show’s success has restored her faith that mass hits are still possible:

Yes. I’ve had so many conversations with my peers at other networks in broadcast and cable, and over and over again the sentiment is, this is just great for the business. It has sent a wave of enthusiasm and optimism through our business that you can create a scripted show, something that’s not a live event, and you can still eventize it in a way that a lot of people are going to make it appointment watching.

Walden also talked about juggling her network and studio hats, Empire’s second season order, standing by Backstrom, taking a big swing with The Last Man on Earth and how Empire has affected her thinking about what shows to pick up next season.

Fox Is Rebuilding Its Slate, One Hit at a Time

The Not-So-Funny State of TV Comedy

state of comedy

While I’ve written dozens of stories for Adweek’s site since last fall, I hadn’t yet written anything for the actual magazine — until today. I made my Adweek print debut in the best and biggest possible way: with a pair of cover stories tied to Thursday’s Two and a Half Men series finale.

Jon Cryer Adweek cover

In addition to my Jon Cryer Q&A, I also spoke with a dozen network presidents, comedy showrunners and sitcom stars for this deep dive into the not-so-funny state of broadcast comedy as two more long-running sitcoms prepare to say farewell. As I wrote,

With CBS’ How I Met Your Mother closing shop last year, Two and a Half Men wrapping this week, and Parks and Recreation—NBC’s top-rated sitcom in adults 18-49, airing its series finale on Feb. 24—broadcast comedy is in a state of transition. While formidable comedy blocks remain on Sunday night on Fox (The Simpsons, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Family Guy), Thursday on CBS (Big Bang, Mom, Men) and Wednesday on ABC (The Middle, The Goldbergs, Modern Family, Black-ish), sitcom ratings are down across the board, and this season is littered with failures: ABC’s Manhattan Love Story and Selfie, NBC’s A to Z and Bad Judge, Fox’s Mulaney, and CBS’ The McCarthys and The Millers (the latter last year’s top-rated sitcom in 18-49 but canceled this season after just four episodes).

The news seems grim, but no one is ready to pull the plug on network comedies:

Despite all the struggles, in conversations with network executives, showrunners, stars and media buyers, a surprising consensus emerges: There is still plenty of fight left in the sitcom. Comedy might not be the dominant broadcast force it was a decade ago, but it is still an essential part of the TV landscape and everyone remains optimistic that the next hit could happen as early as, well, this week.

This was such a fascinating and fun story to report and piece together, thanks to invaluable insights from network presidents like CBS’s Nina Tassler and Fox’s Dana Walden, comedy executive producers like Mike Schur (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Parks and Recreation), Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project), Stephen Falk (You’re the Worst), Robert Garlock (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and Chris Miller (The Last Man on Earth) and sitcom stars like Cryer, Kaling and Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly).

Almost all of them arrived at the same conclusion: it’s only a matter of when, not if, the next hit sitcom is created.

Hollywood remains solidly confident that TV’s next great comedy is just around the corner. “Television’s a very cyclical business,” points out Walden, noting that when she started at 20th Century Fox Television in 1992, the powers that be had decided dramas were done. Then, the studio developed The X-Files for Fox and Steven Bochco created NYPD Blue for ABC, and they were suddenly hot again. “You can’t ever rule out a genre of storytelling,” says Walden. “There’s going to be another breakthrough comedy, and then we’re going to say, ‘Oh, comedy is back!'”

In addition to following the link and reading the whole story, make sure you pick up this week’s issue!

The Not-So-Funny State of TV Comedy

How Fox’s Marketing Fanned the Flames of ‘Empire,’ One of the Biggest New Shows in Years

Empire marketing

Nothing erases the memory of a horrific fall season like a huge midseason hit. And that’s exactly what Fox has on its hands with Empire, which is the number one new show this season in adults 18-49 and has grown its audience three weeks in a row, instead of slowly losing viewers as most new series do.

While the show has connected powerfully with African-American viewers, its success is in large part due to Fox’s elaborate, months-long marketing campaign. Those behind it, including Fox COO Joe Earley and Fox Television Group co-CEO Dana Walden, walked me through the marketing strategy for this Adweek deep dive. As I wrote, Walden quickly identified the show as her top priority for midseason :

As incoming co-CEOs of Fox Television Group, Dana Walden and Gary Newman, tried to piece the network back together late last summer, they decided that Empire would be the focus of its midseason efforts, just as they had centered on Gotham in the fall. “When they started, Dana and Gary immediately made it the No. 1 priority for midseason,” Earley said. “They authorized augmenting the marketing campaign because, honestly, it was under-budgeted. They said, ‘It’s too important; we have to do it right.’ That allowed the really creative marketing team to do execution they couldn’t have otherwise.”

Read on for much more information about the promotional key art, tie-ins, VOD push, social media strategy and how ad buys jumped with each ratings increase — and how Empire’s early renewal for Season 2 has set in motion even grander plans.

This was my first marketing campaign deep dive for Adweek, and it was a treat getting to focus on this side of the industry.

How Fox’s Marketing Fanned the Flames of Empire, One of the Biggest New Shows in Years