LOS ANGELES — Can the return of Michael J. Fox, agent Jack Bauer and “Ironside” help vanquish the flesh-eating zombies that are threatening to take a bite out of television broadcasters’ fortunes?
ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC are unveiling their fall lineups this week with the hopes that their latest crop of crime-solving dramas and half-hour comedies will cure what ails the broadcast industry. The networks are coming off a lackluster season marked by falling ratings and a failure to produce new hits on the magnitude of cable channel AMC’s zombie show “The Walking Dead.”
Fox watched its juggernaut “American Idol” lose 20 percent of its audience compared with last year. The network tumbled out of first place among viewers ages 18 to 49, the group that advertisers pay a premium to reach. ABC, owned by the Walt Disney Co., will probably finish in fourth place in that key advertising demographic.
NBC, owned by cable giant Comcast Corp., is struggling to make a comeback after eight seasons in the ratings cellar. The peacock network finished the February sweeps period in fifth place behind Spanish-language network Univision.
Broadcast TV isn’t as dominant as it once was. Not only have cable networks stolen some of its thunder, but online video services – including YouTube, Hulu and Netflix – have been making aggressive plays for viewers and marketing dollars.