War of '18-49': 'Idol' worship salvation for Fox in ratings battle

By Published on .

Fox Network, thanks to a stunning debut for its fourth-season premiere of "American Idol," is now likely to win the 18-to-49-year-old ratings crown.

Fox ended the fourth quarter with dismal numbers, last place in the race for young advertiser-friendly demos. Speaking early last week at a press event, Gail Berman, Fox Broadcasting Co. entertainment president, admitted: "We drifted too much to the unscripted side." The controversial "Who's Your Daddy?" was canceled after one airing, while "The Next Great Champ," a boxing reality show, moved off Fox to sibling cable channel FX after it failed to catch fire.

But by midweek following the "Idol" premiere, Ms. Berman was singing a different tune. "I expected it to be down and I don't think many people disagreed with that. I've never been happier to have been silly."

The Jan. 18 premiere of "Idol," which features both awful and amazing amateur crooners, drew 33.45 million viewers, up from its 2004 season premiere's 28.6 million. "Idol" will air three nights a week in February and March. With Fox Network airing the Super Bowl Feb. 6, the network has come back to life.


Shari Anne Brill, VP-director of programming at Aegis Group's Carat, warned that the real test of the show's mettle will come when the competition portion begins and the hilarious auditions are over. Still she says "Idol" has brought Fox back from the abyss, "though it has probably guaranteed to leave NBC in fourth place in 18-to-49s."

"This is the ultimate reversal of fortunes," she added.

Brad Adgate, Horizon Media's senior VP-corporate research, predicts that the competition will shift their schedules as a result of "Idol." "Otherwise they'll get killed," he said.

Most Popular
In this article: