May 10, 2015

NIELSENWAR Full Season Network Report Cards: FOX


Other Nielsenwar Network Report Cards:  NBC

One massive hit can make up for an awful lot of failure.  Have you met EMPIRE?

Full Season To Date (thru May 3) 18-49 Rating Average:  1.53 (#4), down 26.2% from last season (Note:  FOX aired the Super Bowl in 2014-15; with that excluded, the year-to-year drop was 15.3%)

Season Grade:  B

What Happened:

Sunday:  The Simpsons and Family Guy are showing their age (last Sunday they were each down around 30% from the parallel night in 2014), although both are still wildly lucrative for their home studio and won’t be leaving the airwaves anytime soon–The Simpsons just received a 2-season renewal order, which will put it near a 3rd decade of production.  The good news for FOX was that the strategy of interspersing live-action sitcoms with the cartoons is working well (the DOA Mulaney aside):  both Brooklyn Nine-Nine and the high-concept, risky The Last Man On Earth are holding their own with their lead-ins.

Monday:  Gotham didn’t end up as the breakout hit the network thought it had last fall, dropping almost half its 18-49 audience from its premiere (3.2) to its season finale (1.7).  It’s looking, in fact, like Sleepy Hollow, which started with a bang last season and was down to 1.4 by its season finale in February.  Gotham still counts as a success, but it has significant creative issues that will need to be worked on in the off-season, and it also has the handicap in today’s TV world of being produced and owned by Warners, which means FOX is unlikely to show it the patience the FOX-owned Sleepy Hollow is getting.  A significant drop in Season 2 could put Season 3 in jeopardy.  Meanwhile, no one could really understand how The Following even got renewed for this past season, but now it’s been laid to rest.

Tuesday:  After a disastrous start with Utopia, the 8PM hour stabilized with some lower-profile reality shows.  New Girl is still successful with Women 18-49, but it’s far from the smash that it was when it debuted, and any further decline may make next season its last.  With shows so close to the edge of the bubble, a tenth or two in the ratings really matters, and The Mindy Project was just enough below New Girl to seal its fate (at least temporarily, depending on what happens with Hulu), especially since FOX didn’t own it.

Wednesday:  Red Band Society was a fall failure, and American Idol didn’t benefit as had been hoped by being cut down to one night a week, with ratings that are now in the mid-1s–good enough to stay on the air, but hardly anything to be thrilled about.  But none of that matters, because… EmpireEmpire is network television’s biggest drama hit in a decade (and even better, produced by the home studio), and FOX’s most important decision next season will be how to schedule it to maximize its power–hold it once again for midseason, increase the number of episodes, move it to 8PM to launch a lead-out, etc.  It’s a good problem to have.

Thursday:  The decision to renew Bones, an aging show with expensive actors and writer/producers that isn’t much above a 1.0 rating these days, is proof of the network’s non-Empire dramatic failure this season.  Backstrom, another eccentric detective show from the creator of Bones, didn’t work as a companion and potential replacement, and it’s gone to its maker.

Friday:  An afterthought for the network aside from the virtual burn-off of the final season of Glee, mostly mixing reality shows with reruns.

What’s Coming:

FOX is all-in on fantasy thrillers, with The Frankenstein Code, Lucifer, Minority Report and Ryan Murphy’s Screen Queens among its orders.  The network’s only new drama taking place in the real world is Rosewood, a medical mystery series.  Comedies include vehicles for John Stamos (Grandfathered) and Rob Lowe (The Grinder), as well as a friends-in-their-20s sitcom called The Guide To Surviving Life.  With the exception of Lucifer (from Warners), all the new series are at least co-produced by 20th Century Fox Television Studios.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."