Look past the flaming dirigible that is NBC and you’ll find that it’s been nothing but blue skies for the broadcast networks.
Through the first eight weeks of the 2011-12 campaign, Fox has enjoyed remarkable year-over-year growth, averaging 9.03 million viewers in prime (up 35 percent) and a first-place 3.1 rating in the all-important 18-49 demo (up 29 percent).
Once content to let American Idol do much of the heavy lifting in the second half of the season, Fox has put together its strongest fall lineup in memory. The Zooey Deschanel comedy New Girl is one of this year’s four indisputable new hits; per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data, the show is averaging 8.48 million viewers and a 4.1 in the demo in its 9 p.m. Tuesday time slot.
New Girl’s deliveries are up 39 percent from the year-ago occupant, Raising Hope.
Also drawing a crowd is Fox’s The X Factor, the glitzy talent show from Idol starmaker/grumpus Simon Cowell. The Wednesday night performance showcase is averaging 11.6 million viewers and a 4.0 rating, while Thursday’s results show is drawing 11.7 million viewers and a 3.9.
On paper, X Factor’s numbers are certainly impressive. That said, the series is falling short of its guarantees by as many as two whole ratings points. When Fox sold the show during the spring upfront, it said it would serve up a 6.0 in the demo—or roughly 7.5 million adults 18-49. Instead, X Factor is drawing around 5.38 million members of the target demo.
Advertisers shelled out as much as $400,000 for a 30-second spot on X Factor, making it the most expensive newcomer in TV history. While no reductions have been made as yet, media buyers suggest that pricing is likely to be adjusted downward in the 2012-13 cycle.
Despite the prospect of having to compensate clients with bonus inventory, Fox is pleased with X Factor’s early showing. If nothing else, the network wants to keep Cowell happy—along with his demonstrated knack for hit-making, he has a considerable amount of juice with clients. (Cowell takes the credit for sealing X Factor’s $60 million sponsorship deal with PepsiCo.)
News Corp. president, COO and deputy chairman Chase Carey said Fox is not in a make-good situation with X Factor or any other show. Speaking to investors earlier this month, Carey said, “we don’t have any make-good issues anywhere on the network,” adding that Fox feels “pretty good” about the show. “We make real money off of it, which is why we just picked it up for a second year,” he said.