Fox Tops Broadcast-Ratings Measure for First Time in Eight Years

(Bloomberg) -- Fox, the channel founded 34 years ago by Rupert Murdoch, is poised to top the rankings of broadcast networks for the first time in eight years.

For the season that ends this month, the Fox Corp. unit is averaging 2.19 million viewers in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic most favored by advertisers. That’s a 13% increase from the previous year. ViacomCBS Inc.’s flagship network remains No. 1 in total viewers for the 12th year in a row, thanks to its largely older audience.

Fox had the Super Bowl this year, always a ratings bonanza, but the network has also benefited from a few new and returning hits. “The Masked Singer,” which just finished its third season, has been the network’s top show, drawing more than 10 million total viewers, while “Lego Masters,” a new competition program that aired before it, brought in younger fans. “9-1-1,” the first-responder drama, also did well.

When Fox was last No. 1, during the 2011-2012 season, “American Idol” was still a hot show. After years of flagging ratings, it went off the air in 2016 and was then picked up by Walt Disney Co.’s ABC in 2018.

While consumers, cooped at home due to the coronarivus, have been watching more TV overall, streaming services such as Netflix Inc. have been the biggest beneficiaries. Broadcast and cable networks have seen a bump over the past few months but still are mostly down in viewers for the season as a whole.

Normally ratings gains like Fox’s would turn into a commensurate bump in advertising revenue, but the coronavirus crisis has prompted a sharp cutback in corporate marketing. Fox said on a call with investors earlier this month that ad sales at its local-station group may fall by half in the current quarter.

Another challenge will be what comes after this season, as TV production has been shut industrywide. Fox earlier this month announced a fall schedule cobbled together with shows that aired elsewhere or were already shot.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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