'Believe' It or Not, 'The X-Files' is a Hit

Mulder and Scully Help Scare Up Fox's Biggest Monday in Two Years

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'The X-Files' got a big boost from the NFC Championship Game right beforehand on Sunday, but Monday's performance suggested the series will continue strong.
'The X-Files' got a big boost from the NFC Championship Game right beforehand on Sunday, but Monday's performance suggested the series will continue strong. Credit: Ed Araquel/FOX

The return of one of Fox's most iconic franchises has given the network new signs of life, as ratings for the new "X-Files" event series were, um, out of this world.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the Sunday night premiere of Chris Carter's paranoid alien-conspiracy drama delivered a staggering 16.2 million viewers and a 6.1 rating in the adults 18-to-49 demo, marking Fox's highest scripted delivery since "Empire" put up a 6.7 in its Sept. 23 season opener. "The X-Files" got a huge boost from its NFC Championship Game lead-in, which drew 45.7 million viewers and a 15.7 adults 18-to-49 rating.

By way of comparison, the last time Fox hosted the NFC title tilt in the late window, it used the game as a launch pad for the season two premiere of "The Following." The Kevin Bacon kill-cult strip scared up 11.2 million viewers and a 4.4 in the demo on Jan. 19, 2014.

While a big turnout for "The X-Files" seemed like a no-brainer, given the series' legacy fan base and enviable NFL support, the show's performance on Monday night suggests that it's no fluke[man]. The second installment of Mulder and Scully's new adventures averaged 9.69 million viewers in the 8 p.m. time slot, winning the night with a robust 3.2 in Fox's target demo. (Per Nielsen fast nationals, that translates to around 4.06 million advertiser-coveted viewers.)

"The X-Files" last night was the only male-skewing program on broadcast TV, drawing an 11 share among men 18-to-49 and a 9 with women in the same age bracket.

Leading out of "The X-Files" at 9 p.m., Fox's new supernatural series "Lucifer" bowed to 7.15 million viewers and a 2.4 in the 18-to-49 demo, marking a retention level of 75%. The early returns for "Lucifer" are likely to go a long way toward helping Fox forget the failure of the time slot's previous occupant; the TV adaptation of the 2002 Steven Spielberg film "Minority Report" stumbled out of the gate last fall to a mere 3.1 million viewers and a 1.1 in the demo. "Minority Report" went on to average just 2.08 million viewers and a 0.7 adults 18-to-49 rating, tying ABC's "Wicked City" for the dubious distinction of being the season's lowest-rated new drama.

"Lucifer" cruised to a win in the time slot, edging hour two of ABC's "The Bachelor" (2.3), while making short work of CBS's "Scorpion" (1.8) and NBC's "The Biggest Loser" (1.1). It also beat out CBS in the older-skewing demo, putting up a 3.0 rating with adults 25-54 to "Scorpion's" 2.7.

Barring any (unlikely) downward revision upon application of the final live-same-day data, Fox's average in the demo (2.8) marks its strongest Monday night performance since Sept. 16, 2013, when "Bones" and "Sleepy Hollow" combined for a 2.9.

Media buyers said that the cost of a 30-second spot in Sunday night's "X-Files" was north of $600,000 a pop. Among the most visible sponsors in the premiere were Ford, Microsoft Surface, Domino's and TurboTax. A Ford Explorer integration was baked into the content of Monday night's episode, and as was the case in the Sunday premiere, the automaker invested in more 30-second spots (four) than any other advertiser. The average unit cost for Monday's "X-Files" was about one-third that of the post-NFC Championship broadcast.

Advertisers buying time in the "Lucifer" premiere included Microsoft Surface, H&R Block, MetroPCS and Activision ("Call of Duty: Black Ops III"). The one-hour episode was stuffed with movie teasers; among the studios that invested in "Lucifer" inventory were Sony Pictures ("Pride and Prejudice and Zombies"), Universal ("Hail, Caesar!"), Marvel ("Deadpool") and Lionsgate ("Gods of Egypt").

The original "X-Files" aired from 1993 through 2002. At its peak, in season five (1997-98), it trailed only NBC's Thursday night lineup ("Friends," "Seinfeld," "ER," various spackle comedies) in the ratings race, averaging 19.9 million viewers and a 10.4 in the adults 18-to-49 demo.

Fox closed out the fourth quarter, or Weeks 2 through 14 of the 2015-16 broadcast season, with an average C3 rating of a 1.6 in the 18-to-49 demo, tying ABC and trailing NBC (2.5) and CBS (1.9).