Fox Wins In Ratings, Advertising -- And Hubris

With the crazy dual-headed disruption monster of commercial ratings and the writers' strike, this TV season has had more fire-breathing turmoil and injured parties than anyone could imagine -- except at Fox.

The network has seemingly already beaten the odds.

For one, Peter Chernin, COO of News Corp., Fox's parent, says the strike looks to be a "positive" for the company -- as it swaps out high-priced, low-performing, new scripted shows with cheaper reality fare. Advertising activity will still bring in decent fees, he says.

If that isn't enough, Fox now looks to be the only network to see its 18-49 viewer ratings rise so far -- up 17%. This bucks its chronic Achilles heel of stumbling badly amid the new season's show starts in the fall.

Trimming back its Major League Baseball playoffs in October helped its shows run without disruption. Much of Fox's gains came with existing shows such as "House," as well as its Sunday night animated comedies.



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Fox's Super Bowl TV commercial units are virtually sold out -- the earliest ever on record for the event, and all at record average prices, some $2.7 million for a 30-second spot. With all TV network inventory tighter than it has been in many years, Fox could also peg a few Super Bowl marketers in the $3.0 million-plus range for a commercial -- perhaps another record.

And, "American Idol" hasn't even started up yet. Imagine the numbers it'll now do against network scripted prime-time shows -- in repeats.

So we've declared today, in late November, that Fox is the winner of the 2007-2008 TV season -- in terms, ratings, advertising sales, and, in regards to the writers' strike, hubris.

No doubt Chernin is now regretting his somewhat bad choice of words. But maybe he was just being honest about the costs and rewards of doing business in TV these days.

Media agency executives are complaining that year-to-year live program ratings are down 10%. But don't whine to Fox -- until mid-May 2008, the time of the upfront program presentations.

Scripted programming? For Fox, maybe that's a thing of the past.

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