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Fox is more than just the reboot network, CEO says

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Plus, the network's venture into VR

Despite Fox's seeming reliance on reboots, including Lethal Weapon and a new Prison Break series, the network's CEO Dana Walden said it was more than just reboots.

"It's so easy to put shows in a category and say this type of show will work or this one won't," Walden said at the Television Critics Association conference in Los Angeles on Monday. "That's overly simplistic. We could have had a variety of reboots, but we chose these shows for a specific reason."

Walden said that Lethal Weapon, for example, had a lot to prove during the pitch process to get Fox to buy into it. Walden said Fox didn't just want a carbon copy of the original film, but wanted to know that there was a story that could be supported over 22 episodes and go on for multiple seasons. That being said, Walden admitted that there was a reason Fox was interested in taking on a number of reboots every season.

"In a market that's so competitive, taking a recognizable title helps us build an audience and bringing in an audience," Walden said. "Recognizable titles help us with securing that audience, but at the end of the day the show has to win us over. We're not just interested in rebooting titles for the sake of rebooting titles."


One of the most talked about reboots that Fox brought in earlier this year was The X-Files. The show reunited original stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, and was once again headed by Chris Carter. While Fox was enthusiastic about the reboot, critics were less than thrilled with the episodes and asked if it was the beginning of reboot fatigue.

Walden said that while she did read "some of those negative reviews," the support from the fans was overwhelmingly positive and addressed some of the issues the show had to face coming back on the air after being off for nearly two decades.

"The show was off the air for a very long time and was introduced to a variety of new viewers through OTT [Over The Top content] services," Walden said. "There was still a lot of time to cover in these six episodes, so they had the challenge of filling in the mythology and explaining where these characters were at in their lives now.

"Going forward, there won't be the same obligation to reset the series."

Despite critics' displeasure with the majority of the episodes, Fox's president of entertainment Dave Madden said that there were very serious conversations occurring between Carter, Duchovny, Anderson and the network to get back together for another season of the rebooted show. Madden said the interest is there on all sides, but the issue is a logistical one as they try to figure out production schedules.

"I think the six episodes are strong and are a vision of Chris and his team," Madden said. "We have an opportunity to do more episodes and we'll take cues from Chris and his team."

"Our shows have become a part of a national and global conversation"

One of the reasons Fox decided to move forward with The X-Files reboot was because of the newfound audience the show garnered through Netflix. Walden said that, similarly, it was a conversation with Netflix's chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, that led the network to developing the new Prison Break series.

"Ted Sarandos told us that Prison Break was doing incredibly on Netflix," Walden said. "He mentioned that at a time when we were already interested in bringing back Prison Break in some way and that gave us the push we needed."

Walden added that Fox, which caters to the youngest demographic of all the four major broadcasters, understood how important streaming was and were committed to making sure all their content was available across any platform available to the company. She said viewership of Fox's programs had doubled on Hulu, and through the launch of Fox Now, had secured an entirely new audience that only consumed television through streaming.

"We think we're moving in the right direction," Walden said. "We're creating new distribution models, and it's no surprise that our on-demand viewership is some of our strongest, but we're looking for new opportunities."

Some of those opportunities, Walden said, include moving into virtual reality. The network had teamed up with Samsung for a new VR experience for its upcoming Lethal Weapon reboot, and was constantly exploring new ways to bring VR to its broadcast audience. Walden didn't say if Fox was going to develop content specifically or exclusively for the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, but added that VR was definitely an aspect of storytelling they were interested in exploring as a network.

For now, however, the focus is still on creating new series, like The Exorcist and Pitch, and keeping broadcast alive in a very digital age, according to Walden.

"We're producing 50 shows at the studio right now and I feel pretty good about the creative talent behind virtually every one of those shows," Walden said. "Our shows have become a part of a national and global conversation. You just can't have that on other platforms."