Fox Wins Ratings, to Mint New 'Joe Millionaire'
1 hour, 13 minutes ago
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Fox Television on Wednesday claimed its first victory ever in the battle for young adult viewers in the crucial ratings "sweeps" season and vowed to bring back the "reality" hit centered on a working man posing as a millionaire that powered the upset. The network which began the year in last place in ratings said it had devised a way to reprise the blockbuster "Joe Millionaire," in which a group of women competed for the affections of a hunky construction worker posing as the heir to a $50 million fortune.
Fox Entertainment Group Chairman Sandy Grushow declined to say in a conference call when the new "Millionaire" would run or how Fox could maintain the storybook fiction for new group of contestants, but he promised a sequel true to the "values" of the original.
"There will be men, there will be women, there will be romance, there will be money at stake," he said.
NBC, which had claimed the top spot with viewers aged 18 to 49 for the previous 12 sweeps on the strength of shows like "Friends," tipped its hat to Fox, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Ltd.
"February sweeps ends tonight, and all I can say is 'Thank God'," Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Entertainment told a separate conference call.
NBC, a unit of General Electric Co., was No. 2 in the 18-49 age group which advertisers covet, Viacom Inc.'s CBS was third, and ABC, owned by Walt Disney Co., ran fourth among 18-to-49-year-old viewers, Nielsen Media Research showed.
CBS claimed victory among total viewers, with an average of 13.80 million viewers, compared with 12.45 million at NBC, 12.10 for Fox and 10.45 million for ABC.
ABC Entertainment Chairman Lloyd Braun said his team had halted the sharp decline in viewership that dogged the network in recent years, barely missing out on second or third place among young adults.
"Last year at this time we were mired in fourth place, seemingly trying to stop an avalanche. This year we are talking about plugging up holes," said Braun.
The sweeps are conducted three times a year to collect viewing data local TV stations use to set their advertising rates. The networks compete more fiercely than usual during those periods -- in February, May and November -- by loading up their prime-time schedules with specials and other flashy programs to boost the ratings of affiliates.
Aside from post-Super Bowl programs, the "Joe Millionaire" finale on Monday was the highest-rated telecast in the 18-49 demographic since the finale of the original "Survivor" reality series on CBS in August of 2000.
Fox also gained considerable ratings mileage from the second edition of its talent contest show "American Idol," and from its long-running animated family sitcom "The Simpsons," while singer Michael Jackson was the focus of specials on NBC, ABC and Fox during the month.