Magazine article Variety

Does 'Idol' Ebb Mean Music's over at Fox?

Magazine article Variety

Does 'Idol' Ebb Mean Music's over at Fox?

Article excerpt

THE SEASON-TO-DATE primetime rankings may tell a different story, but there's no question Fox is limping to the finish of the 2013-14 television season.

After good audience response to newcomer "Sleepy Hollow" in the fall, Fox's start to 2014 was rocky. Reality kingpin "American Idol" took a tumble, and the net's most promising new shows in recent years, comedy ("New Girl") and drama ("The Following"), have been placing fourth in their timeslots.

Fox is not alone in its struggles - and next month's return of "24" should give it a boost - but this is the time of year when, during "Idol's" heyday, Fox typically dominated and opened up some distance on it rivals. And that's what makes the net's performance last month especially eye-opening.

During March, a clean four-week period with no major awards shows or dominant sports programming, Fox placed fourth among adults 18-49 all four weeks. In Nielsen's "most current" ratings, which include two weeks of seven-day DVR playback, the network's average rating of 1.6 (a 30% decline from last year) trailed CBS (2.1), ABC (2.0) and NBC (1.9).

Fox isn't in danger of falling below second place for the season, but that's because it aired both the Super Bowl and NFC Championship games in primetime this season. If you take sports out of the equation, the net's in fourth place - a tick behind ABC and three-tenths behind both a rising NBC and declining CBS.

In years past, "American Idol" was capable of erasing all of Fox's sins. But now the music competition is struggling at the same time other Fox programs have hit the skids.

Through March, "American Idol" was averaging a 3.8 rating in adults 18-49, and 13.2 million viewers overall for its twohour Wednesday performance show - still pretty good numbers, especially for a series in its 13th year. But the numbers represent declines of 25% and 17%, respectively, vs. last year. And while this marks the third straight season "Idol" has lost 20% or more of its young-adult audience, this year's dropoff has had a more meaningful effect on its status as one of TV's top-rated (and most feared) programs. …

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