‘This is Us’ is TV’s biggest new hit. So why did Fox give it to NBC?

Chrissy Metz as Kate, left, and Justin Hartley as Kevin in a scene from "This Is Us."
(Paul Drinkwater / Associated Press)

It’s not often that a network executive walks out on stage at the Television Critics Assn. press tour and touts the success of a series that is aired by one of his competitors.

But Fox Television Group co-Chairman Gary Newman did just that on Wednesday as he praised the success of “This Is Us,” the top-rated new show of the 2016-17 TV season. Newman has no regrets that his studio, which produces the twist-filled, emotional family drama from writer-producer Dan Fogelman, sold it to NBC.

Newman believed “This Is Us” could have worked on the Fox network. But NBC promised to use the high-rated Summer Olympics and its reality hit “The Voice” as lead-ins and promotional platforms to drive viewers to sample the program.


“The results are we have the No. 1 new show on television at our studio,” Newman said.

Newman said Fox’s willingness to find the right home for shows — even if it benefits a competitor — is necessary to attract talent such as Fogelman, who has an overall production deal with the studio.

“We have made a commitment to our writers at our studio that we’re going to give them the greatest chance to succeed,” Newman said. “When we read that script we just felt that tonally it was a show that seemed consistent with ‘Parenthood’ and ‘Friday Night Lights’ and NBC had some real success with that. If NBC responded to it the way we did, we thought it would probably be a good home for it.”

NBC is reaping the benefits of “This Is Us” on its prime-time schedule, which on Tuesday averaged 10.5 million viewers and a season high 3.0 rating in the advertiser coveted 18- to 49-year-old age group. It was the network’s best rating in the 9 p.m. time period with a scripted program in seven years. But Fox will get the revenue generated from sales to foreign broadcasters, domestic TV syndication and streaming video services.

“’This Is Us’ is going to be a lucrative, important show for us and will live in our library for the rest of time,” said Newman, who with co-Chairman Dana Waldman, took on oversight of Fox broadcast operations in addition to running the TV studio in 2014.

Newman noted that Fox’s TV studio now supplies the top-rated scripted programs in the 18- to 49-year-old age group on six different networks: “Modern Family” for ABC, “Homeland” for Showtime, “American Horror Story” for FX, “American Dad” for TBS, “This Is Us” for NBC and “Empire” for Fox.

Fox’s other new show from Fogelman demonstrates just how difficult it is to attain prime-time ratings success with the voluminous number of choices viewers have.

The Fox network bought Fogelman’s “Pitch,” a drama about the first female Major League Baseball player. Despite receiving a promotional push during the network’s high-rated coverage of the 2016 World Series, the show has delivered lackluster ratings that makes a second season renewal less than a sure thing.


“I don’t think the performance level enabled us to make an early decision about it,” said Newman. “But as we get to May [when fall TV schedules are set] we’re certainly going to consider it.”

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio