5 Reasons Why 'Utopia' Failed on Fox


Why 'Utopia' didn't succeed in USA and instead of "the largest social experiment on TV" Fox got fall's biggest reality failure.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Utopia is this fall's biggest reality failure of U.S. television. Fox planned season-long broadcasting but instead cancelled the show in November after airing just 13 episodes. Here are five reasons why 'Utopia' didn't work:

1. Selling a bubble

There was a huge difference between marketing and reality. While Fox hoped for "largest social experiment on TV" it didn't happen. There was nothing groundbreaking or highly innovative about 'Utopia'. Just pure and well-known reality genre.

2. Insufficient execution

From poor casting lacking catchy contestants to insufficient dramaturgy and editing of the show, 'Utopia' didn't have the drive necessary in reality genre. There always has to be a little bit of drama in each episode, intersting story or problem, plot gradation and partial solution concluding something but leaving room for viewers' curiosity and motivation to watch next episode. This didn’t happen in the world of 'Utopia', there were episodes when nothing really happened in the whole hour. No gradation, just a lot of boring chats.

3. Unwanted genre?

Why did Fox want this specific kind of reality genre? CBS has a relevant experience with it and its 'Big Brother' is a summer show - not "loud" fall TV highlight.

Viewers showed no interest in this kind of show from the very beginning. Except from season premiere (aired on a special night) Utopia hit low ratings, below Fox average. These are "most current" results including time-shifted viewing according to Nielsen:

Tuesdays 8:00 PM (+ Sunday season premiere)

  • 2+ 3.9 million viewers (-2.6 million below Fox season-to-date average)
  • Households 2.5 rating / 4% share (-1.4/-3 below Fox season-to-date average)
  • 18-49 1.7 rating (-0.4 below Fox season-to-date average)

Fridays 8:00 PM

  • 2+ 2.5 million viewers (-3.9 million below Fox season-to-date average)
  • Households 1.6 rating / 3% share (-2.3/-4 below Fox season-to-date average)
  • 18-49 1.0 rating (-1.1 below Fox season-to-date average)

4. Too little experience with the format

Fox announced 'Utopia' shortly after the format’s world premiere in the Netherlands. Talpa’s newbie was still looking for its shape and creative concept somewhere between Endemol's 'Big Brother' and 'The Farm' by Strix.

Fox was probably hoping for same scenario as NBC achieved with 'The Voice' - it was licensed to USA in early stage and succeeded. But 'Utopia' is a different story; Fox got the format too early. It needed tests and improvements before selling to such an important market.

5. Wrong channel

Big "social experiment" with huge media coverage and social media interaction would be highly suitable for Fox. But average reality competition, undeveloped in concept and weak in execution seems like a better product for cable TV, because Fox has no time to work on it. It either "clicks" perfectly or gets cancelled after 13 episodes.