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Fox heralds its 'Empire' to advertisers as 'Idol' fades away

Fox executives brought their 'Empire' to advertisers even as 'Idol' faded away

Fox has entered the age of "Empire."

The end of "American Idol" received just a passing mention at the network's upfront presentation to advertisers of its 2015-16 prime time lineup. The future now belongs to the fictional hip-hop music dynasty of the Lyon family. After years of being serenaded by "Idol" performers, it was Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson and the other "Empire" stars — who took the TV industry by storm in recent months — who performed Monday at the Beacon Theater on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

Dana Walden and Gary Newman, the chairs and chief executives of Fox Television Group, told the audience that the breakout hit will have 18 episodes next season, up from 13 in its freshman run, during which it became the top-rated broadcast show among viewers ages 18 to 49.

"Empire" will be the centerpiece of Fox's scheduling strategy designed to avoid repeats and create consistency for viewing habits. The series, along with Fox's other dramas, will be split into what Walden described as "two installments of uninterrupted runs," one starting in fall — which will end with a cliffhanger. The other run will be in the spring.

"The erratic schedules of the past just don't work anymore," said Walden, adding there will be more first-run episodes of Fox series on the schedule than ever before.

The rest of the Fox lineup appears to be a mix of far-out high-concept genre shows and several shows with down-the-middle concepts and casting that would have fit on any mainstream network schedule of the last 15 years.

There was no discussion of ratings, which were not a pretty story this last season for the fourth-place network. But advertisers heard the first direct salvo delivered at online video, which cable and broadcast networks fear will cut into their upfront ad revenue pie. Rob Lowe brought the insouciant attitude seen in his effective DirecTV ad campaign to a taped segment that warned advertisers about the "viewability" of their spots on "crappy online video."

Fox's Monday programming will feature the second season of "Gotham" at 8 p.m. "Minority Report," the futuristic thriller based on the 2002 feature film directed by Steven Spielberg, follows at 9. Spielberg is an executive producer on the series, the first time he's overseen a TV adaptation of one of his films.

The network's big scheduling gamble is the launch of two new comedies to lead off Tuesday. After considering a move of "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" to anchor the night, Fox executives decided to risk an all-new hour fronted by TV stars recognizable to several generations.

"Grandfathered" stars "Full House" alum John Stamos as a randy but aging restaurateur who learns he has a son and a grandson.

The durably handsome Lowe, most recently on "Parks and Recreation," and Fred Savage of "The Wonder Years" return to prime time with "The Grinder." Lowe plays a TV lawyer who joins his brother's law firm after his series is canceled.

"Scream Queens," an anthology series from "American Horror Story" and "Glee" executive Ryan Murphy, will air at 9 p.m. Set on a college campus, Fox said it will "meld, comedy, mystery and drama." Cast members include Jamie Lee Curtis and Lea Michele, although don't get too attached to any of them, as Murphy promises that one character will be killed off each week.

"It's 'Heathers' meets 'Friday the 13th,' " Walden said.

Wednesday leads off with "Rosewood," a new drama starring Morris Chestnut as a Miami pathologist who obsessively assists the local police with homicide cases. It's followed by "Empire," which returns to the 9 p.m. time period where it became massive hit.

Veteran series "Bones" and "Sleepy Hollow" will be paired on Thursday. Reality shows "MasterChef Junior" and "World's Funniest" will hold down Friday.

Fox will air live sports on Saturday and will return its comedy lineup of "Bob's Burgers," "The Simpsons," "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," "Family Guy" and "The Last Man on Earth" to Sunday. In January, the network will add "Bordertown," a new animated series from "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane and that show's executive producer, Mike Hentemann.

The executives also set a Jan. 24 date for the six-episode reboot of the Fox sci-fi favorite "The X-Files." It will be launched behind Fox's broadcast of the NFL's National Football Conference championship game.

stephen.battaglio@latimes.com

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