NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- 21st Century Fox (FOXA) is leaning heavily on its hit show Empire to alleviate investor concerns about the network's immediate future, and also to entice marketers who will gather on Monday at a Manhattan theater for the company's annual "upfronts" presentation aimed at selling advertising for the coming television season.
While a turnaround at Fox isn't expected anytime soon, if it does happen industry experts agree it will need a big boost from Empire.
For the moment, Fox's television business continues to win higher fees from pay-TV distributors even as primetime ratings at its flagship network trail its biggest rivals. Profit in Fox's cable-busiess jumped 4.8% in the quarter ended March 31 as revenue surged 14% to $3.59 billion. All told, sales at Fox increased 1.1% to $6.84 billion, short of analyst expectations of $6.8 billion.
According to Nielsen, the 20th Century Fox TV/Imagine TV drama averaged a 3.8 rating/11 share in adults age 18 to 49 and 9.9 million total viewers when it premiered in early Jan. 7 -- big numbers that held steady throughout the season. The lively crime drama/nighttime soap has built a large and loyal following, capturing the coveted -- and increasingly elusive -- 18- to 49-year-old demographic over the past five months. (The median age for Empire was 43.5, making it the night's youngest-skewing program on the Big Four networks: ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.)
This is an especially impressive feat considering that many young viewers watched the show on digital led by Netflix (NFLX) and Hulu -- meaning, their numbers were harder to measure by traditional methods.