Longform Ads Replace Kid Fare On Fox
Infomercials set for Saturday morning
November 23, 2008
Fox is getting into the infomercial business.
In an unprecedented move, Fox will program two hours of
longform commercials on Saturday mornings starting in
That's believed to be the first time a major network has
slated full-blown, program-length advertisements on its
Move follows an out-of-court legal settlement with
children's TV producer 4Kids, which had been programming
Fox's Saturday morning kids block under a time-buy
Under the settlement, Fox and 4Kids are terminating
their deal early, at the end of December; 4Kids
continues to buy time on the CW, where it programs that
netlet's Saturday morning slate as well.
With the kids TV marketplace completely depressed, there
was no other obvious programmer available to fill the
slot -- or come up with the hefty $20 million that 4Kids
had been paying Fox per year.
Instead, Fox opted to return two hours of the block to
affiliates, and program the other two with infomercials.
"Weekend Marketplace" will air from 10 a.m. to noon
Saturdays; the block is cleared on 95% of Fox affils.
Because of the swiftness of the announcement -- the
settlement with 4Kids was reached Nov. 9 -- Fox execs
said the initial "Marketplace" programs will indeed be
the kind of infomercials seen on basic cable and local
Long term, the net hopes to seal deals with major
marketers to create more traditional-looking programming
that weaves in advertising messages.
"These are hopefully not infomercials," said Fox
Networks Group chairman Tony Vinciquerra. "These will be
longform programs that highlights their product. In that
regard, it will have a little better quality."
Long the bane of insomniac TV viewers, infomercials have
rarely been seen on the broadcast nets -- save the
occasional political time buy, such as Barack Obama's
recent primetime campaign ad. Advertisers played an
active role in producing the early days of TV, but those
programs didn't center on the heavy-sell, pitch-heavy
content seen in modern infomercials.
Fox Affiliates Associates board of governors chairman
Brian Jones said he supported the network's decision to
program the infomercials -- but added he believed the
move was a "short-term type of answer."
"We are all trying to navigate some critical times here
in the business," said Jones, who's also co-chief
operating officer of Nexstar Broadcasting. "We will
continue to talk to them, and they'll continue to look
at what the best use of that time is, and the type of
programming that's the best long-term business for the
network and the affiliates."
Jones said he did appreciate the return of two hours on
Saturday morning. Stations have been looking for more
flexibility to broadcast their government-mandated
weekly three hours of educational/informational
Because the 4Kids block only programmed 30 minutes of
educational fare, affils had to squeeze the other 2½
hours in during the week.
"A lot of us are wanting to expand our morning news
presence during the week," Jones said. "This allows us
to move that E/I programming to the weekend to
facilitate more local news."
The relationship between 4Kids and Fox soured earlier
this year, after 4Kids demanded a refund for some of the
money it paid Fox.
According to a suit it filed against Fox in April, 4Kids
said it was entitled to a refund if Fox didn't maintain
at least a 90% clearance for its Saturday morning kids
block in the 8 a.m. to noon slot.
The producer computed the Fox affiliate clearances and
determined that it was owed $13 million. Fox shot back
that it didn't owe 4Kids a dime.
The producer continued to program the block but didn't
pay Fox a $5 million fee due April 1, another $5 million
due July 1 or $3 million of the $5 million due Oct. 1
(all told, making up the $13 million 4Kids believed it
In the settlement deal, 4Kids agreed to pay $12.25
million of the $13 million it had withheld. But with the
two sides parting ways in December, 4Kids will no longer
pay the $15 million it was on the fence to cough up
between January and September (when its deal was set to
The producer will now move some of the more popular fare
from its Fox block to its CW slot. In an earnings call
earlier this month, 4Kids CEO Al Kahn said he believed
"the advertising market will be very, very tough in the
first two quarters."
Exec hoped that demand for spots in 4Kids' CW block will
improve now that the 64 advertising units on 4Kids' Fox
lineup are being eliminated.
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