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Fox KO's 'Next Great Champ's Friday repeats, schedules two week hiatus after fourth episode


By Wade Paulsen, 09/23/2004 

Oscar de la Hoya found himself helpless against a bigger and stronger opponent in the ring this weekend. After three weeks, his Fox reality series The Next Great Champ is finding itself in similar straits in the ratings wars.

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With the second and third episodes of The Next Great Champ, hosted by de la Hoya, having failed to improve on the disastrous ratings of the show's Tuesday, October 7 premiere, Fox has pulled Champ's Friday 9PM repeat showings -- which were drawing a cable-like 1.5 million viewers -- from its schedule. Airing in its place will be the also struggling The Complex, moving back from 8PM, where repeats of The Simpsons and That 70s Show will now air.

In addition to cancelling the Friday repeats effective immediately, Fox has also decided that the previously announced move of Champ's first-run broadcasts from Tuesdays to Friday evenings, originally scheduled to occur effective Friday, October 8, will now be delayed until Friday, October 22 -- a move that essentially results in the show taking a two and a half week broadcast hiatus.

Perhaps Mark Burnett, the creator of NBC's The Contender, who sued Fox for ripping off his show, was right when he said that the determining factor between the boxing-reality shows would be quality, not first to air. Just as de la Hoya, a former junior lightweight (130 lb.) world champion, was out of his element against undisputed titleholder and natural middleweight (160 lb.) Bernard Hopkins in a middleweight title fight, Champ appears to be fighting out of its weight class against The Contender and Burnett, the reigning titleholder in reality television.

The Next Great Champ's first-run Tuesday episodes have fared better than its Friday repeats, but only by comparison. The number of viewers tuning in for the three original Tuesday episodes broadcast to date has stayed stable -- hovering between 4.7 million (premiere) and 4.8 million (second and third episodes) -- however that's about the best thing that can be said for their performances. Each week, The Next Great Champ's Tuesday broadcasts have finished fourth in the vital Adults 18-49 demographic, and this past week the third episode finished fifth in overall audience, behind CBS (The Amazing Race 5), ABC (According to Jim and Rodney), NBC (Father of the Pride and Scrubs) and The WB (One Tree Hill, which drew 5.2 million). Only the finale of UPN's Amish in the City (2.9 million) did worse.

Before Champ aired, Fox was aware that it might not draw younger women viewers, and so it tried to provide a female-skewing reality lead-in, however so far, the plan clearly appears to have failed.

After getting off to a quick summer start, Fox's chosen lead-in, its Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy ripoff of ABC's upcoming Wife Swap, has begun to experience a ratings slump of its own, with this week's latest Spouses's episode finishing only fifth in its time slot despite drawing about a million more viewers than Champ.

Since Friday night is a known reality TV ghetto (see ABC's The Mole 2 for proof), we'll watch and wait to see when Champ fights its next battle.

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