Fox's 'Vanished' and 'Prison Break' Can't Escape Low Ratings

With little competition, Fox's new drama "Vanished" and its returning hit, "Prison Break," kicked off the network's fall season with less-than-breakout numbers.

"Vanished" didn't disappear, but barely registered with a 3.0 rating for adults 18-49. It was down 19 percent from the season debut of "Prison Break," which earned a 3.7 rating among 18-49 viewers. Both shows either ran against reality summer fare or reruns.

This was a disappointing showing for Fox, given the major Internet buzz "Vanished" generated, according to marketers. The return of "Prison Break" for its second season was down substantially from its 18-49 average of a 4.6 rating a year ago.

"Prison Break" benefited greatly from "American Idol," Fox's heavyweight show, when it began in August 2005 and returned this past March. This round, "Prison Break" didn't have "Idol" promoting it. Says Brad Adgate, senior vice president, corporate research director of Horizon Media: "They thought that like "House," "Prison Break" would stand on its own." An additional annoyance--"Vanished" didn't get many positive notices from critics.

"It's very early," says Adgate. "The ratings are disappointing, but I don't think you can draw any conclusions. There are other opportunities to watch these shows than linear TV."

Fox, like other networks, has an assortment of options, including iTunes, VOD, and ad-supported Web sites, where viewers can see TV shows. Adgate says TV researchers may need to adjust the way they analyze shows to include other digital downloading and streaming viewing.

Overall, Fox won the night with a 3.3 rating and 10 share among 18-49 viewers, CBS was next at 2.7/8; ABC at 2.3/7; NBC and Univision were both 1.8/5, and WB and UPN each at 0.7/2.

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