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From Hollywoodreporter.com

Fox can’t cash in on ’Millionaire’ (tru mention)

By Scott Collins

Wednesday 22 October 2003

After several weeks of baseball reveries, Fox was rudely jolted back to reality Monday night as poor ratings for two heavily promoted Monday premieres stunned many industry observers.

The ratings debacle for the reality romance "The Next Joe Millionaire" and the drama "Skin" was especially shocking not only because the first "Joe Millionaire" was last season’s top-rated entertainment series in the key adults 18-49 demographic but also because Fox has repeatedly touted its new shows during its coverage of postseason baseball. Last week’s League Championship Series games drew enormous ratings thanks to the presence of two beloved underdogs, the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox. Now it looks as if Fox, currently No. 1 season-to-date in the demo, will face an unexpectedly tough challenge against its main competitor for younger viewers, NBC, after the World Series wraps this week.

The second installment of "Joe Millionaire," the reality romance in which a group of young women vie for the favors of a bachelor they are led to believe is wealthy, placed third in the 8 p.m. slot with an average 3.2 rating/9 share in the demo, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research. NBC easily won the hour with its long-running reality favorite "Fear Factor" (5.1/14). One especially disturbing footnote for Fox : "Joe Millionaire" was actually beaten in total viewers by the WB Network’s perennial "7th Heaven" (6.8 million vs. 7.2 million total viewers).

"Skin," a Romeo-and-Juliet drama partly set against the porn industry, fared even worse, placing a distant fourth (2.7/6) amid lively competition : the first hour of ABC’s "Monday Night Football," the CBS sitcoms "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Two and a Half Men" and NBC’s casino drama "Las Vegas."

Overall, ABC carried the night in the demo (5.5/15), followed by CBS (5.2/13), NBC (4.4/11) and Fox (2.9/8).

Fox entertainment president Gail Berman said that while the premiere results were disappointing, the season so far has been bruising for all the broadcast networks, a reckoning that baseball likely delayed for Fox.

"We’re kind of dealing with and experiencing what all of our network counterparts are facing this fall," Berman said. "It’s tough to reach this young-adult audience."

She added that because "Joe Millionaire" is a limited series that runs only through the November sweep, its ratings are ultimately less of a concern than those for "Skin," though she pointed out that the premiere of the reality show built its ratings as it progressed.

Borrowing a page from its handbook for "The O.C.," the youth-oriented soap that grew into a late-summer hit, Fox plans multiple exposures for new episodes of "Skin." The pilot will be rebroadcast Friday, with subsequent episodes to air again on Thursdays starting next week "in an effort to expose it to the broadest possible audience," Berman said.

Berman also said it is far too early to contemplate any changes to the Fox schedule. While the network has run into trouble on Fridays with its freshman sitcom "Luis," it has yet to unveil such new series as "Tru Calling" (Oct. 30) and "Arrested Development" (Nov. 2).

One possible explanation for the poor "Skin" showing may be that men who might have been intrigued by the sex-industry subplot were busy watching football on ABC.

Meanwhile, given its heavy skew toward older male viewers, baseball might not have made the best promotional platform for "Joe Millionaire," which needs to connect with sizable numbers of young females to maximize its ratings. Viewers also may have been put off by the producers’ reliance on European rather than American contestants — a switch made necessary after the success of the first "Joe Millionaire" made it virtually impossible to find any prospective U.S. bachelorettes not wise to the deception at the heart of the show’s concept.

"While the concept may have been new to the European women in ’Joe Millionaire,’ the concept was old to American viewers, which is what truly counts for Fox," said John Rash of Minneapolis-based ad firm Campbell Mithun. "Having lightning strike twice is as difficult in television as it is in nature."