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Fox to 'Break' New Ground With 'Prison' Premiere

(Posted August 22, 2005 by Leah Yoakum)

LOS ANGELES (August 22) - Fox Broadcasting Co. will break with primetime scheduling tradition by launching its drama series "Prison Break" next week -- and then relaunching it in October after the postseason Major League Baseball games are over.

"Break" will lead the charge for the fall season with its Aug. 29 debut with a two-hour premiere, directed by executive producer Brett Ratner ("Rush Hour"). The network's massive promotional push includes a marathon of the first seven episodes of the show to run on its sibling cable channel FX on Oct. 23, the day before "Break" returns to Fox's Monday night lineup at 9 p.m. after a two-week baseball break.

Fox is gambling that the high-tension actioner -- centering on a man who deliberately gets himself sent to prison in order to break out with his brother, a wrongly convicted death row inmate -- will generate buzz with its preseason premiere. The game plan then is to reinforce that buzz to the show's target audience (namely, young men) with a blizzard of promotion for the show during the network's baseball coverage to prime the audience to return for the remaining six episodes of "Break" that will run consecutively beginning Oct. 24.

Moreover, before, during and after baseball, Fox will take every opportunity to repeat episodes of "Break," as well as other serialized new fall shows like "Reunion" (which bows Sept. 8), on the nights leading up to its baseball hiatus. There also might well be opportunities during the baseball weeks if the Divisional and League Championship Series are decided in fewer than seven games.

The heavy repeat strategy for "Break" reflects the network's faith that the fast-paced drama has the potential to become a signature series for Fox. It also underscores the new realities of scheduling challenges for the broadcast networks, which are increasingly taking a page from cable's playbook by offering ample opportunities for people who might have heard about a show through word-of-mouth to check it out.

"We're in a much more competitive environment for people's eyeballs and people's time," said Preston Beckman, Fox executive vp strategic program planning. "The notion that everybody is going to show up on cue for the premiere of anything is delusional, so the more we can get our shows out there, we will. You're seeing the increased use of DVDs to launch shows ... You're just trying to get it out in front of as many people as possible. If the show's good, they'll want to be there for each original episode in its regular time slot."

Beckman noted that Fox used a similar heavy-repeat strategy two years ago to great effect around the launch of "The O.C." in late summer and again in late fall, when it returned with fresh episodes.

For FX, the seven-hour "Break" marathon offers a great promotional platform and a chance for the channel to be associated with "what we see as one of the great new shows of the season," FX Networks senior vp programming Chuck Saftler said. The marathon format, which FX has done with such Fox series as "24" and "The O.C.," is a better fit for FX than a once- or twice-a-week repeat of a recent episode, Saftler noted.

"Marathon's are kind of sticky for viewers," he said. "Once they've watched one episode, the next thing they know they're halfway through the network one, and that gets us viewers that will stick around for several more hours than they might typically stick around on a Sunday afternoon."

Paul Scheuring, creator/co-executive producer of "Break," said his goal is to keep adding layers to the basic story line of the prison break -- which will take place in dramatic fashion at some point in the initial batch of 13 episodes -- and their postbreak experiences as fugitives.

Amid all of that, the audience will be given details and hints about the nature of a vast conspiracy that landed the older brother on death row. Scheuring likens the show to a combination of "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Great Escape." The more opportunities that viewers have to get hooked on the mystery behind "Break" the better, Scheuring said.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

Source: AOL News

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