January 4, 2015

NIELSENWAR Network Midterm Grades: FOX


The midseason part of the broadcast network schedule kicks off in a few hours, and we’ve spent the past few days taking a look at ABC, CBS and NBC.  Today it’s the turn of the most critical patient in the quartet.


Fall Primetime 18-49 Average (through December 28):  1.58, down 17.8% from Fall 2013

Grade:  D

The Season So Far:  That 17.8% decline, by far the worst of any network, doesn’t even reveal the full extent of FOX’s suffering this fall, because it includes both a 7-game World Series and a hugely successful Simpsons/Family Guy crossover night.  The network is down 20% on Mondays, 25% on Wednesdays and 35% on Thursdays (as well as 36% on Saturdays, although that’s more of a sports-driven result). The one substantial piece of good news for FOX all fall was the successful launch of Gotham, which although no blockbuster (recent ratings were in the 2.2-2.3 range), certainly looks like one in the context of the rest of FOX’s schedule.  Also, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has fit in nicely with the Sunday line-up, and there have been recent signs of life from New Girl and The Mindy Project on Tuesdays, thanks in part to the weaker competition in their hour.  (Tuesday was the network’s best performing night, up 10% from last fall, but that’s more due to Masterchef Jr than the sitcoms.)  Otherwise, the roll of the (almost certainly) dead is lengthy:  Mulaney.  Red Band Society. Utopia.  Gracepoint.  In addition, last fall’s seeming phenom Sleepy Hollow slumped badly in Season 2, despite its strong Gotham lead-in, and is now just a marginal success.  Bones, The Simpsons and Family Guy are all extremely old, and while they’re continuing to perform, they’re starting to show their age, at ever-increasing costs.  (There also seem to have been logistical issues with Family Guy this fall, accounting for an unusual number of reruns so early in the season–it’s not clear whether that will mean more fresh half-hours in the Spring, or a truncated year for the show.)  In all, it’s been a wreck.

Forecast:  Lots of Sound and Fury, Probably Not Signifying Much.  FOX is essentially junking its schedule for midseason, with significant changes on every night of the week.  The big swing is Wednesday’s Empire, an entertaining hip-hop soap that will test the popularity of Terrence Howard and the show’s sparkplug, Taraji P. Henson.  Backstrom, the new Thursday procedural from the creator of Bones, already feels as weary as Bones does after 10 seasons.  New sitcoms Last Man On Earth and Weird Loners both seem like niche plays that are unlikely to connect with a wide audience.  Very little is expected of Glee, banished to Fridays for its final shortened run of episodes.  And no one can quite figure out why The Following, which tumbled badly in its 2d season (and isn’t produced by FOX’s in-house studio), has even been renewed for a 3rd.  Looming over all of this, of course, is the network’s multi-multi-million-dollar question:  has American Idol bottomed out, the way Survivor and Dancing With the Stars did after their glory days, or is it going to keep crashing?  Idol will reduce to 1 night per week in March, with the hope that it will bring some excitement back to the waning show, which the network needs–among other things–to provide strong lead-ins to Empire and Backstrom  If it can’t deliver, the 2015-16 FOX schedule may look very different under network/studio heads Dana Walden and Gary Newman, and network president David Madden, all of whom took their network seats after the departure of Kevin Reilly, who developed this season’s new shows (although Walden and Newman produced some of them with their in-house studio hats on).  Translation:  the new team doesn’t owe much loyalty to this season’s debuts.

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."