Fox setting stage for duopoly success

Sep 24, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The New York stations may not be back on track, but that hasn’t stopped the Fox stations and Twentieth Television from finding some early success as another disrupted season gets under way.
Last year, the Olympics and the presidential election controversy disrupted viewing patterns while this year the terrorist attacks delayed the launch of new seasons for some syndicated shows. The Fox stations group prepared to experiment with its new duopolies while Twentieth rolled out two new syndicated shows Sept. 17.
“Given the promotion time we lost because of news coverage, I think we’re encouraged from what we’ve seen so far on our stations,” said Frank Cicha, VP of programming for the Fox stations. “But you have to keep in mind that even when we do get the New York stations up, viewing levels won’t be normal for months.”
Earlier this year, Fox parent News Corp. closed on its deal to buy 10 Chris-Craft Industries stations for $3.7 billion. The acquisition brought Fox’s station count to more than 30 outlets and made Fox, alone among TV players, the owner of two TV stations in both New York and Los Angeles.
Among the changes caused by the duopoly shift are Fox Kids block’s move to the former Chris-Craft stations in New York and Los Angeles and the move of series such as “Seinfeld” and “3rd Rock From the Sun” from one station to the other. Despite stiff competition from news, company executives feel the shifts have thus far been successful, resulting in some rating spikes in the two top markets.
“Both the New York and L.A. stations have made a real cooperative effort to work together throughout these trying weeks,” Mr. Cicha said.
Twentieth Television joined numerous other syndicators last week in informing affiliates that they would not be responsible for make-goods during last week’s programming pre-emptions. Mr. Cicha agreed that most companies probably lost a good amount of advertising barter revenue last week because of the news coverage.
Meanwhile, Twentieth’s two veteran strips, “Divorce Court” and “Power of Attorney,” both launched their new season the last week of August and have seen their own rating bumps. “Divorce” is up in AA ratings, while “Power” has climbed two-tenths of a point. In the GAA category, “Divorce” has shot up four-tenths, while “Power” is up by three-tenths.
“I don’t think we’ve really felt the full impact of what [new “Power of Attorney”] Judge Lynn Toler will bring to the show this season,” said Bob Cook, president of Twentieth Television. “People will continue to sample her as the season progresses, and I am confident that the ratings will continue to rise from here.”
Twentieth has had success with its two new series, “Texas Justice” and “King of the Hill,” both of which debuted last week.
“Texas Justice” scored the best debut of any new first-run strip so far this season among metered markets, with a 2.0 rating and 6 share, before settling in to a 1.8/5 average through Sept. 19, a tight second behind NBC’s “The Other Half.”
“King of the Hill,” meanwhile, made a solid off-network debut, taking the title of top off-network rookie so far this season, although heavyweight “Everybody Loves Raymond” has yet to debut. “King” earned a 2.8/6 on the day it debuted and averaged a 2.7/5 over the first three days of the ratings.
“We had the advantage of launching at the end of August, and we’re extremely appreciative of the support we’ve gotten from the stations,” Mr. Cook said. “This has been an extraordinary way to launch the season, but all four of our shows are very healthy, and we’re feeling good about it.”