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Ratings: Fox's 'Next Great Champ' gets KO'd in premiere

By Reality TV World staff, 09/09/2004 

Fox might have won its battle with Mark Burnett and gotten its The Next Great Champ reality boxing series on the air well before NBC's The Contender, but if the ratings for Tuesday's premiere episode are any indication, it doesn't look like it emerged from the fight with much of a prize.

Pounded by a one-two punch of CBS's Big Brother and NBC's Father Of The Pride/Scrubs combo, Fox's The Next Great Champ hit the canvas in its debut, drawing only 5.2 million viewers and finishing fourth in its hour in the all-important advertiser-friendly Adults 18-49 demographic.

While Champ placed behind even two repeat episodes of ABC's According To Jim sitcom and did lose over 2 million viewers from its rather incompatible Trading Spouses lead-in, Champ did manage to retain 100% of the male audience of the female-skewing Spouses.

Given all the publicity that the show received as a result of the idea-theft allegations and two lawsuits filed before its premiere, Fox executives acknowledged the dismal performance was surprising. "After all the commotion surrounding (Champ), we're disappointed with the initial rating," Fox spokesman Scott Grogin told Reuters, adding that the network has "every intention of seeing Champ through" its ten-episode run and hopes to build additional interest (as it did with July's Trading Spouses premiere) via word of mouth.

Tuesday's Big Brother 5 episode finished first in its time period with 9.76 million overall viewers and a 4.4/11 rating/share in Adults 49. NBC's Father of the Pride/Scrubs combo averaged 8.87 million viewers and a 3.9/10 rating/share. Fox's Champ finished fourth with a 2.4/6 in Adults 18-49.

In March, Fox's Playing It Straight series, airing on a Friday evening (an evening with traditionally significantly lower viewership levels) premiered to similar numbers. Two episodes later, the network pulled the plug on the series. Only time will tell whether, despite the network's publicly stated intentions, The Next Great Champ (which was already previously scheduled to move to Friday evenings beginning in October) will meet a similar fate.

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