Fox’s 2021 upfront presentation focused in large part on the fact that both Fox and the streaming service Tubi are entirely supported by ads, standing in contrast with other streamers associated with broadcast networks.
Numerous references were made to the fact that Tubi has no paywall like other streamers, with plenty of jabs at the competition. Those included multiple well-done comedy skits, like one modeled on a pharmaceutical ad for a drug designed to help ad buyers struggling with “Max+ syndrome.” Another, an animation sequence in the style of “The Simpsons,” saw a beleaguered ad buyer trying and failing to get over the paywall at HBO Max while also bemoaning the fact his ads run in a constant loop on Peacock — and only during “Punky Brewster.” The skit even poked fun at the many corporate parent changes for WarnerMedia, though it clearly was made prior to the recent Discovery/AT&T news.
The fact that Tubi played such a big part in the presentation from Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier was just another example of a rapidly growing trend in these presentations: Streaming is now the name of the game. Collier went into a pitch on Tubi to advertisers pretty much before touting any of Fox’s current programming by name. As he succinctly put it, “Fox fuels Tubi and Tubi fuels Fox.” Something similar happened during NBCU’s upfront presentation, where Peacock was front and center.
“Lachlan [Murdoch, Fox Corp. CEO] was very clear that we were committed to being a free ad-supported service,” said Collier in an interview with Variety. “And we have the No. 1 network, it looks like, for the second year in a row. Then we added, by design, a streaming service that was free and ad-supported. And so we’re literally the only network-centric, U.S. broadcaster who also is 100% free and ad-supported on streaming. And so that is very much our strategy — that’s not part of our strategy, that is our strategy.”
Beyond that, the presentation felt much like Fox’s last live upfront in 2019, which is not a bad thing considering the year the world at large has had. Collier touted Fox’s ability to be nimble and its independence within the industry, given that it is the only broadcaster not currently associated with a vertically integrated studio.
The network’s animation offerings were prominently on display once again, with cornerstones like “The Simpsons” and “Bob’s Burgers” getting plenty of shoutouts. Those were coupled with the news that fellow animated comedy “The Great North” has been renewed for Season 3 before Season 2 has even aired, locking in the show’s place amidst Fox’s well-known “Animation Domination” block on Sunday nights.
Collier also leaned into Fox’s hit unscripted offerings, like “The Masked Singer” and the more recent “I Can See Your Voice.” Coming next season are the unscripted shows “Domino Master” hosted by Eric Stonestreet and “Alter Ego,” the latter of which will debut in the fall. Scripted fare on deck for the fall includes the the dramedy “The Big Leap” and the drama “Our Kind of People” from Karin Gist and Lee Daniels.
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