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By any measure, Fox Sports scored big time in its rookie year with the NFL.

With a 13.7 Nielsen household rating average, Fox's 1994-95 National Football Conference coverage was just 4% below CBS' 14.2 average for the 1993-94 season and less than 1% off NBC's 13.8 rating for '94-95 American Football Conference coverage.

The rating is better than Fox's internal estimate of a 5% drop from CBS and vastly better than that predicted by Fox critics who foresaw a plunge of as much as 15% from CBS' '93-94 results.

Most significantly, Fox hit its ratings estimates to advertisers, following a bullish sales effort during last year's upfront that brought the network cost per thousand, unit rate and revenue gains over CBS.

"We have come out of the season whole. There might be a couple of advertisers we owe a half a unit to, but we earned everything we sold," said Jon Nesvig, president of sales for Fox.

That's remarkable considering many outsiders thought Fox oversold football during the upfront, getting higher CPMs and more revenue than CBS the previous season.

Advertising Age estimates CBS took in upwards of $275 million in the '93-94 season, at an average rate of about $130,000 per 30-second NFC commercial. Fox generated nearly $300 million at an average of nearly $150,000 per :30.

One reason Fox was able to get a higher rate was an expectation the network would not only be competitive in terms of households but would actually improve the demographic composition of NFC telecasts.

That appears to be the case: Fox averaged an 11.1 rating among men 18 to 34, compared with CBS' 11 rating last season. Fox tied CBS with an 11 rating for men 18 to 49.

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