New York -- Continuing to court a younger audience, Fox
Family Channel will add three new live-action series and three animated shows to its
kids' and "tween-targeted" daytime program roster next season.
At the network's kids' upfront last Wednesday,
Fox Family officials said that for the 2000-2001 season, it will debut 400 original
episodes, with more than 300 of those made up of new installments of returning shows and
the other 100 made up of new shows.
The network's three live-action shows include: 13
episodes of Real Scary Stories.com,a reality-based series that features
kids' accounts of actual encounters with the paranormal; 26 episodes of The Zack
Files, a comic coming-of-age story about a teen-ager who documents his weird
paranormal experiences in his special file; and House of Pop, a half-hour music and
club-dancing show featuring performances and interviews with teen pop stars.
In terms of animation, Fox Family has Da Mob,which
follows the exploits of an untalented hip-hop band as they struggle for stardom; and Detective
Conan,the adventures of a pint-sized crime fighter.
Detective Conan and Flint the Time Detective will
both be added to Fox Family's Sunday Japanese "anime" block, which was
recently branded with the moniker "Made in Japan," Fox Family CEO Rich Cronin
Fox Family has ordered 26 episodes of both Da Mob and
Detective Conan. Another animated show about a 13-year-old practical joker, Just
Kidding,is in development. The Acquabats performed at the upfront, and Fox
Family is also talking with the group's members about possibly developing a show for
the network, officials said.
At the presentation, Cronin told Madison Avenue
representatives that his network's positioning is to "superserve tweens,"
or those aged nine through 14 who are too hip for Nickelodeon but not quite ready for MTV:
Music Television or The WB Television Network's Dawson's Creek.
The strategy for Fox Family is to mesh the
"hipness" of the Fox brand with the "warmth of family," he added.
Fox Family said its game plan is working, with the network
increasingly drawing young viewers. For example, season to date, Fox Family's daytime
Saturday ratings for kids two through 11 are up roughly 75 percent, to a 0.7 from a 0.4,
according to the network.
And during the February sweep, Fox Family showed the
highest growth rate among its Saturday competitors -- Kids WB, Nickelodeon, ABC, Cartoon
Network and Disney Channel -- from 8 a.m. to noon.
"We're really started to build kids' and
tweens' viewership," Cronin said. "We've made the network a
destination for kids."
Of course, Fox Family is coming off a smaller base than its
rivals, since it only began targeting kids after its relaunch nearly two years ago. So any
growth it shows will register as a large percentage gain.
Cronin was also basking in the fact that earlier in the
day, Fox Family's Angela Anaconda had won a daytime Emmy Award nomination for
animation. The network has ordered 26 new episodes of Angela.
As for the new series, The Zack Files -- which
Cronin described as "Ferris Bueller meets The X-Files," --and Real
Scary Stories.com are slated to debut during Fox Family's "13 Days of
Halloween" stunt in the fall. The others shows will debut this summer.
During its presentation, parent company Fox Family
Worldwide Inc. unveiled its launch of an Internet sales and marketing group that will
represent its own kid- and tween-targeted Web sites -- for Fox Family, its two digital
networks and Fox Kids -- as well as four non-Fox sites.
Those affiliate sites are Zeeks.com Inc., FunBrain.com LLC,
ALFY and Headbone Interactive Inc.'s Headbone.com. In combination, those sites
deliver more than 100 million monthly impressions, according to Fox Family Worldwide
president of ad sales Rick Sirvaitis. "We wanted to go with the highly trafficked
sites," he said.
Fox Kids Web Net will be led by Matt Turner, manager of
national advertising sales.
At a press conference after the upfront, Sirvaitis
predicted that this year's kids upfront will be flat. "Advertisers are still
getting their budgets together," he said.
At the press session, Cronin said Fox Family is developing
some original programming for its Web sites. "It's a good way to get kids'
input on programming," he added.