Fox Courts Fear

Forget sex. Fear is the program du jour. Fox-owned stations added Fear Factor
to their off-net arsenal. Last week, the station group acquired the NBC Enterprises show to run as a strip next fall. "It's another aggressive step towards strengthening our duopolies with strong off-network product," says Frank Cicha, programming VP for the group.

The Fear Factor
grab is Fox's third in recent weeks. It just renewed off-net sitcoms Seinfeld
and Everybody Loves Raymond, taking Raymond
from Tribune in five markets and Seinfeld
from Raycom in Cleveland. The Fox O&Os join Acme, Bahakel, Clear Channel, Cox, Emmis, Granite, Grant, Media General, Meredith, Milwaukee Journal, Raycom, Sinclair, Viacom, and Young, bringing Fear Factor's coverage to more than 70% of the country.

News Corp.-owned FX also purchased the show, at an estimated $250,000-$300,000 an episode as an hour-long strip for next summer. Both deals start this year and run for four years.

The station deal is all-barter, seven minutes of ad time each for the station and NBC. The show is likely to run in early or late fringe, says Sean O'Boyle, senior vice president and national syndication sales manager.

Network reality in the post-Who Wants To Be a Millionaire
world has not been a fit for syndication, but Fear's producers saw potential after the first nine or so hours did well, says David Goldberg, president of Endemol USA, which creates the show.

In its fourth season, Fear Factor
is a top performer for NBC, averaging a 5.9 rating in the key 18-49 demo, up 7% over last season, and 13.9 million viewers , up 8%. The show also is winning its Monday 8 p.m. slot in all key categories. It set records (8.4 rating/21 share in 18-49, 18.8 million viewers ) Feb. 16 with the last of eight couples competitions. Such ratings warmed advertisers to the gross-out show.

Unlike most reality shows, Fear Factor
has a shelf life. Whether viewers can swallow it in fringe remains to be seen.

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.