Fox executive: Network may lose 18-49 ratings race next season

LOS ANGELES, July 23 Mon Jul 23, 2012 7:42pm EDT

LOS ANGELES, July 23 (Reuters) - The Fox television network may relinquish its eight-year ratings title among the 18- to 49-year-old age group prized by advertisers in the upcoming season, Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly said on Monday.

The News Corp-owned network's streak in the category was built largely by its reliance on singing competition "American Idol." Total viewership for the show in the season that ended in May dropped 30 percent from the previous season, according to Nielsen ratings data.

CBS, Fox's chief rival, gains an advantage this TV season with broadcast rights for the Super Bowl football championship and AFC playoff game, Reilly said. The Super Bowl is the highest-rated telecast every year and draws a large crop of younger viewers.

"We may not win the season this year," Reilly said at a meeting of the Television Critics Association. "At the very least, it is going to be close."

Still, Reilly insisted that Fox "is going to have a big year. We are going to be teed up for the future."

Reilly said he was optimistic about the network's Tuesday night block of comedies, including newcomers "The Mindy Project" created by and starring "The Office" actress Mindy Kaling and "Ben and Kate," about an odd-couple pair of siblings.

To build advance buzz, Fox is making the premiere episodes of both shows available online for two weeks before their TV debuts.

Reilly also announced that Grammy Award-winning singer Mariah Carey would step in as an "Idol" judge next season, after last-season judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez left the show earlier in the month.

Another Fox singing competition, "The X Factor," is aiming to draw more viewers with Britney Spears and Demi Lovato on its judge's panel.

The network also is moving quirky musical comedy "Glee" to Thursday night, and will split story lines between characters remaining at McKinley High in Ohio and others who are moving on to New York, the Fox network chief said.

"We think it is going to work very seamlessly back and forth," he said.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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