For Fox, Ratings Duels Await

Sep 23, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Fox’s premieres are off to a steady start, with a trio of new shows earning base hits in the Nielsen ratings that the network hopes won’t falter when competitors send out their heavy hitters over the next couple weeks.
Coming off the network’s low-rated presentation of the 59th annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 16, Fox’s New Orleans cop drama “K-Ville,” Gordon Ramsay’s makeover reality series “Kitchen Nightmares” and the Kelsey Grammer-Patricia Heaton sitcom “Back to You” all gave even-keel opening performances.
“Everything premiered at numbers we feel we can build off of,” said Preston Beckman, Fox’s executive VP for strategic program planning.
The return of Fox’s “Prison Break” was down slightly from last year to a 3.3 rating among adults 18 to 49, followed by “K-Ville,” which retained the audience to also earn a 3.3, according to Nielsen Media Research. This week, however, “K-Ville” goes up against NBC’s biggest ratings draw, “Heroes.”
Last Wednesday, Fox’s “Back to You” and “Kitchen Nightmares” both earned a 3.1, with “Back to You” besting CBS’ “Kid Nation” debut during its half-hour and “Nightmares” winning its hour. But this week NBC’s “Bionic Woman” and ABC’s “Private Practice” will gang up on “Nightmares,” and the following week “Pushing Daisies” is added to the 8 p.m. hour versus “Back to You.”
The only clunker: The docu-soap reality show “Nashville” debuted to a 1.0 on Sept. 14, down 33 percent from its lead-in. The return of Fox’s “‘Til Death” on Wednesday also was soft, down 13 percent from last year to a 2.7.
Mr. Beckman said Fox’s freshman lineup this fall consists largely of self-contained shows, which will help it withstand the competitive onslaught.
“The first few weeks there’s a lot of sampling going on, people finding out what they like and what they don’t like,” he said. “None of these shows are so serialized that these numbers are their peak. They’re all shows that we can grow.”
Fox tried to promote some of its new and returning fall fare on the Emmycast, but there were fewer viewers than ever to influence. The Emmys had its lowest audience in at least 15 years, earning a 4.3 rating, down 17 percent from last year.
“[The Emmys] bring people who normally don’t watch Fox to our network,” Mr. Beckman said. “But I think at the end of the day the best promotion for the show is the show.”
Brad Adgate, senior VP of research at Horizon Media, called Fox’s fall launch “promising.”
“The Emmy Awards are disappointing, but [Fox is] off to a promising start,” he said. “The question is whether they can sustain this type of ratings against regular season competition and stay out of fourth place.”

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