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Fox hits with ‘Joe,’ but payoff is limited

Jan 13, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Fox Broadcasting Co.’s heavily hyped hit “Joe Millionaire” is bringing buzz, but the network can’t cash in on its ratings success.
Because of Fox’s massive ratings underdelivery this season-down at times nearly 20 percent for regular-season programming vs. a year ago-it won’t be able to sell very many coveted time slots in the reality series to new advertisers at hefty prices. Instead, it needs to use much of that inventory for make-goods, free ads to compensate marketers for missed ratings guarantees in other programming.
Initial ratings for “Joe Millionaire” were impressive, with a 10 rating and 22 share among adults 18 to 49, according to Nielsen Media Research. That made it the highest-rated network premiere of the season as well as Fox’s best showing in the time period in eight years. In the show’s debut Jan. 6 at 9 p.m., it earned almost 19 million viewers overall. “Joe Millionaire” is a limited series that will run for seven weeks.
“This will help us erase some of the make-good issues that we had,” said Jon Nesvig, president of advertising for Fox Broadcasting, which is asking $375,000 for a 30-second commercial, about twice the $160,000 to $175,000 price that advertisers paid before the show made its debut, according to agency executives.
“It was a quick-fix programming concept that worked well,” said Doug Seay, senior VP and director of national broadcast for Publicis & Hal Riney Co. “They are not making money, but they are losing less.”
Mr. Nesvig admitted that little inventory will be available for sale. “We’ll figure out a way to sell something to someone if they really need it,” he said.
Unlike with Fox’s hit “American Idol,” the chance to air a sequel to “Joe Millionaire” is limited. The show is based on a deception that is now widely known: 20 women vie for a bachelor who, they are told, has just inherited millions. In fact, he is a $19,000-a-year construction worker.