Ford Returns as Sponsor of 'The X Files'

Automaker Was a Longtime Backer of Legacy Fox Series

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David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in 'The X Files'
David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in 'The X Files' Credit: Ed Araquel/FOX

But for writer Vince Gilligan, most of the old "X Files" gang has gotten back together for the upcoming six-part revival of Fox's '90s megahit, which bows Sunday, Jan. 24. And the reunion isn't limited to series creator Chris Carter and co-stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson; one of the show's most visible sponsors is also along for the ride.

Fox on Tuesday said that long-standing "X Files" backer Ford will play a key role in the miniseries, having cut a deal that ensures placement in each of the half-dozen episodes. As the official automotive partner of "The X Files," Ford also will be featured in an active integration designed to showcase a specific tech wrinkle of its 2016 Ford Explorer. (While Ford hasn't revealed which tech spec it will show off, the new Explorer comes standard with an array of apps that allow for everything from hands-free calling to a front-mounted 180-degree cameras that makes it possible for the driver to see around corners.)

The integration will appear during the second episode, set to air on Monday, Jan. 25.

While the Explorer first appeared during the fourth season of "The X Files" (the original series ran from September 1993 to 2002), Ford was present from the pilot. The very first vehicle that pops up in the premiere episode is a blue Ford Taurus, a rental used by Mulder and Scully as they investigate cult activity in Oregon. The car gets its demo reel moment when its radio goes on the fritz after the two investigators are confronted by a mysterious, time-zapping flash of light.

From that episode on, Mulder and Scully would be seen in an armada of government issue Fords, mostly Tauruses and Crown Victorias. (The rented Ford became such an integral part of the "X Files" universe that one of the canonical rules of a popular drinking game based on the show dictated that a shot be downed whenever Mulder and Scully were seen in a non-Taurus.)

The one-hour premiere will lead out of Fox's coverage of the NFC Championship Game, giving the show its best shot at drawing a crowd. In the event Green Bay and Seattle manage to advance to the final playoff game, it would set up a rematch of last year's broadcast, which delivered 49.8 million viewers and a 27.4 HH rating.

Two years ago, when Fox hosted the 49ers-Seahawks NFC Championship Game, the season two premiere of "The Following" retained about one-fifth of its football lead-in, drawing 11.2 million viewers.

Because the first installment of "The X Files" is expected to deliver out-sized sampling, Fox has been able to secure much higher ad rates for inventory within the episode. Media buyers estimate that the going rate for a 30-second spot in the post-playoff "X Files" broadcast is north of $620,000 a pop. The average unit cost in the remaining five episodes is approximately $215,000 per :30, making it the season's most valuable new series buy.

The Jan. 24 episode is slated to carry a standard ad load, with about 16 minutes of sponsor messaging and in-house Fox promos airing in the hour.

Over the course of its broadcast run, "The X Files" won three Primetime Emmy Awards, five Golden Globes and a Peabody. At its peak, in season five (1997-98), it was the most-watched, highest-rated show on TV behind only NBC's Must-See TV juggernaut, averaging 19.9 million viewers and a 10.4 in the adults 18-49 demo.

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