Inside ‘The X-Files’ Revival’s 201-Day Marketing Plan

TheWrap picks Fox CMO Angela Courtin’s brain about her team’s out-of-this-world promotional push

x files ufo 3
Heidi Albee / TheWrap

“The X-Files” may seem like the show that sells itself. So why did Fox market the hell out of the revitalization for 10 months?

All-told, the broadcast network dropped breadcrumbs for 201 days — one day for each of the original run’s episodes — before the debut. And two days before the new launch, it dropped a UFO on popular Los Angeles outdoor shopping plaza The Grove.

Fox’s Chief Marketing Officer Angela Courtin — who joined the network in July from Relativity Media — walked us through her promotion strategy for the limited-run return.

The complex campaign was simplified by what Courtin was happy to call “really great IP.” The “X-Files” was “a global phenomenon,” she told TheWrap during a Friday interview. “We were able to capitalize on understanding … who those viewers where, where they had gone off to.”

So, how did Fox’s marketing and promotions group break down the task at hand?

Well, first they identified those old fans. If even half the show’s original ’90s viewership showed up for the premiere Sunda night, the new miniseries would be an unheard of success in broadcast’s contemporary landscape.

“I kind of equate it to a political strategy,” Courtin said, “You have your base of solid supporters, and our job was to find them and to feed them a constant diet of great content.”

They wisely sought out new eyeballs after. And the newbies weren’t too tough to target: Fox hit social media, hard. After all, the young ‘uns — who weren’t watching primetime when the original series debuted in 1993 — are all over Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. That’s exactly where Courtin and her team headed.

And when they weren’t on other people’s websites, they were creating their own. One particularly fun one — a favorite accomplishment of Courtin’s — is packed full of redacted X-Files, a good example of the CMO’s strategy to play into themes of “conspiracy and truth and belief.”

Still, 201 business days is a long time, and Courtin’s squad had to be careful not to oversaturate the marketplace.

As she put it, their guidelines were fairly simple. Courtin wanted people to get “enough not to gorge [themselves], but … to stay hungry for what’s coming next.”

That time-length also sounds super expensive, though Courtin told us we’d “be surprised” if given a crack at her budget numbers — after all, a ton of fans already existed, so she didn’t have to spent there.

“Those fans did heavy lifting for us, and then we used paid media to find new fans,” Courtin said.

Of course, UFOs aren’t cheap these days, so it wasn’t just certain media Fox was paying for. But it’s kind of a one-crash deal — so what will Courtin and her group of Earthlings do with a 26-feet wide, 17-feet tall, 12 feet deep spaceship?

“It’s the ultimate fan giveaway,” she joked.

Don’t get too excited, nerds with backyards — it’ll actually be recycled.

“The X-Files” six-episode event series kicks off with its two-night premiere starting Sunday on Fox.