LOS ANGELES - Fearless counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer returns to TV on Monday after a four-year absence as Fox revives Emmy-winning thriller "24" in a limited-run series, a format the network bets is better tailored for today's viewing habits.
As audiences shift toward recording shows to watch later on digital video recorders and have less patience for committing to months-long traditional TV series, Fox believes a short run of"24: Live Another Day" will encourage viewers to skip the DVR and watch the show as it airs.
The rebooted "24," starring Kiefer Sutherland as Bauer, will be told in 12 episodes, half the length of its preceding eight seasons.
That is a formula inspired in part by cable television's ability to draw respectable ratings by cutting the length of a show's season, said Joe Earley, chief operating officer of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc's Fox Broadcasting arm.
"It was clear the audience could not only commit to that run, but that also in between they would be able to catch up in their busy lifestyles and VOD (video on demand) and DVR choices. There's a nice palatable number of 10 to 12 episodes," Earley said.
"24: Live Another Day," which also stars Mary Lynn Rajskub as Bauer's sidekick, Chloe O'Brian, picks up as Bauer re-emerges years after he was forced to go underground for being wanted by both the United States and Russia.
The frenetic thriller in which each episode represents an hour in one day, attracted viewers as one of TV's top shows from 2001 to 2010, as Bauer raced against a ticking clock to foil plots through guile, guns, gadgets, fists and controversially, torture.
It won 20 Emmy Awards during its eight-season run, including best drama series, Sutherland for best actor in a drama series, and best writing for a drama. At its peak in 2006, "24" drew nearly 14 million viewers on average.
LIVE SPORTS IDEAL
A major appeal for networks to draw audiences to watching live is that later viewing on DVR has less value to advertisers.
By limiting a series to fewer episodes, it can create an event-like draw akin to a sporting event or awards show, TV's most-watched programs, said Brad Adgate, senior vice president and research director for media firm Horizon Media.
"You want to sit and watch it in real-time, you want to talk about it on social media," Adgate said. "The ads can't be zapped. There's a tremendous amount of upside."
Networks have also tried their hands at special live programming and limited-run series to draw in viewers.