The Fox Broadcasting Company (often shortened to Fox and stylized in all caps as FOX) is an American over-the-air television network that is owned by the Fox Networks division of News Corporation. The network is headquartered at 1211 Avenue of the Americas in New York City, with additional offices at the Fox Broadcasting Center (also in New York) and at the Fox Television Center in Los Angeles.
Launched on October 9, 1986, as a competitor to the Big Three television networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC), Fox went on to become the most successful attempt at a fourth television network. It was the highest-rated network in the 18–49 demographic from 2004 to 2012, and earned the position as the most-watched American television network in total viewership during the 2007–08 season.
Fox and its affiliated companies operate many entertainment channels in international markets, although these do not necessarily air the same programming as the U.S. network. Most viewers in Canada have access to at least one U.S.-based Fox affiliate, either free-to-air or through a pay television provider, although Fox's National Football League broadcasts and most of its prime time programming are subject to simultaneous substitution regulations for pay television providers imposed by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to protect rights held by domestically based networks.
Fox is named after 20th Century Fox, its corporate sibling, and indirectly for producer William Fox, who founded one of the movie studio's predecessors, Fox Film. Fox is a member of the North American Broadcasters Association and the National Association of Broadcasters.
20th Century Fox had been involved in television production as early as the 1950s, producing several syndicated programs. Following the demise of the DuMont Television Network in August 1956, after it became mired in severe financial problems, the NTA Film Network was launched as a new "fourth network". 20th Century Fox would also produce original content for the NTA network. The film network effort would fail after a few years, but 20th Century Fox continued to dabble in television through its production arm, TCF Television Productions, producing series (such as Perry Mason) for the three major broadcast television networks (ABC, NBC, and CBS).
1980s: Establishment of the networkEdit
The Fox network's foundations were laid in March 1985 through News Corporation's $255 million purchase of a 50% interest in TCF Holdings, the parent company of the 20th Century Fox film studio. In May 1985, News Corporation, a media company owned by Australian publishing magnate Rupert Murdoch that had mainly served as a newspaper publisher at the time of the TCF Holdings deal, agreed to pay $2.55 billion to acquire independent television stations in six major U.S. cities from the John Kluge-run broadcasting company Metromedia: WNEW-TV in New York City, WTTG in Washington, D.C., KTTV in Los Angeles, KRIV-TV in Houston, WFLD-TV in Chicago, and KRLD-TV in Dallas. A seventh station, ABC affiliate WCVB-TV in Boston, was part of the original transaction but was spun off to the Hearst Broadcasting subsidiary of the Hearst Corporation in a separate, concurrent deal as part of a right of first refusal related to that station's 1982 sale to Metromedia. (Two years later, News Corporation acquired WXNE-TV in that market from the Christian Broadcasting Network and changed its call letters to WFXT.)
Because Metromedia (originally known as Metropolitan Broadcasting at its founding) was spun off from the failed DuMont Television Network, radio personality Clarke Ingram has suggested that the Fox network is a revival or at least a linear descendant of DuMont. The former Metromedia stations WNEW (originally known as WABD) and WTTG were two of the three original owned-and-operated stations of the DuMont network, and that the former base of DuMont's operations, the DuMont Tele-Centre in Manhattan, eventually became the present-day Fox Television Center.
Beginning of the networkEdit
In October 1985, 20th Century Fox announced its intentions to form a fourth television network that would compete with ABC, CBS, and NBC. The plans were to use the combination of the Fox studios and the former Metromedia stations to both produce and distribute programming. Organizational plans for the network were held off until the Metromedia acquisitions cleared regulatory hurdles. Then, in December 1985, Rupert Murdoch agreed to pay $325 million to acquire the remaining equity in TCF Holdings from his original partner, Marvin Davis. The purchase of the Metromedia stations was approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in March 1986; the call letters of the New York City and Dallas outlets were subsequently changed respectively to WNYW and KDAF. These first six stations, then broadcasting to a combined reach of 22% of the nation's households, became known as the Fox Television Stations group. With the exception of KDAF (which was sold to Renaissance Broadcasting in 1995, at which time it became a charter affiliate of The WB), all of the original owned-and-operated stations ("O&Os") are still part of the Fox network today. Like the core O&O group, Fox's affiliate body initially consisted of independent stations (a few of which had maintained affiliations with ABC, NBC, CBS, or DuMont earlier in their existences). The local charter affiliate was, in most cases, that market's top-rated independent, however, Fox opted to affiliate with a second-tier independent station in markets where a more established independent declined the affiliation (such as Denver, Phoenix and St. Louis). Largely because of both these factors, Fox in a situation very similar to what DuMont had experienced four decades before had little choice but to affiliate with UHF stations in all except a few (mainly larger) markets where the network gained clearance.
The Fox Broadcasting Company officially debuted with a soft launch at 11:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time on Thursday, October 9, 1986. Its inaugural program was a late-night talk show, The Late Show, which was hosted by comedian Joan Rivers. After a strong start, The Late Show quickly eroded in the ratings, it was never able to overtake NBC stalwart The Tonight Show whose then-host Johnny Carson, upset over her becoming his late-night competitor, banned Rivers (a frequent Tonight guest and substitute host) from appearing on his show (Rivers would not appear on Tonight again until February 2014, seven months before her death, by which time Jimmy Fallon was its host). By early 1987, Rivers (and her then-husband Edgar Rosenberg, the show's original executive producer) quit The Late Show after disagreements with the network over the show's creative direction, the program then began to be hosted by a succession of guest hosts. After that point, some stations that affiliated with Fox in the weeks before the April 1987 launch of its prime time lineup (such as WCGV-TV in Milwaukee and WDRB-TV in Louisville) signed affiliation agreements with the network on the condition that they would not have to carry The Late Show due to the program's weak ratings.
The network had its "grand opening" when it expanded its programming into prime time on April 5, 1987, inaugurating its Sunday night lineup with the premieres of the sitcom Married... with Children and the sketch comedy series The Tracey Ullman Show. The premieres of both series were rebroadcast twice following their initial airings (at 7:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Eastern/Pacific, respectively) that night, which Jamie Kellner, who served as the network's President and Chief Operating Officer until his resignation in January 1993, stated would allow viewers to "sample FBC programming without missing 60 Minutes, Murder, She Wrote, or the 8 o'clock movies". Fox added one new show per week over the next several weeks, with the drama 21 Jump Street and comedies Mr. President and Duet completing its Sunday schedule. On July 11, 1987, the network rolled out its Saturday night schedule with the premiere of the supernatural drama series Werewolf, which began with a two-hour pilot movie event. Three other series were added to the Saturday lineup over the next three weeks: comedies The New Adventures of Beans Baxter, Karen's Song, and Down and Out in Beverly Hills (the latter being an adaptation of the film of the same name). Both Karen's Song and Down and Out in Beverly Hills were canceled by the start of the 1987–88 television season, the network's first fall launch, and were replaced by the sitcoms Second Chance and Women in Prison.
In regards to its late night lineup, Fox had already decided to cancel The Late Show, and had a replacement series in development, The Wilton North Report, when the former series began a ratings resurgence under its final guest host, comedian Arsenio Hall. Wilton North lasted just a few weeks, however, and the network was unable to reach a deal with Hall to return as host when it hurriedly revived The Late Show in early 1988. The Late Show went back to featuring guest hosts, eventually selecting Ross Shafer as its permanent host, only for it to be canceled for good by October 1988, while Hall signed a deal with Paramount Television to develop his own syndicated late night talk show, The Arsenio Hall Show. Fox aired the 39th Primetime Emmy Awards and would air the next five editions.
Although the network had modest successes in Married... with Children and The Tracy Ullman Show, several affiliates were disappointed with Fox's largely underperforming programming lineup during the network's first three years, KMSP-TV in Minneapolis and KPTV in Portland, Oregon, both owned at the time by Chris-Craft Television, disaffiliated from Fox in 1988 (with KITN, now WFTC) and KPDX respectively replacing those stations as Fox affiliates), citing that the network's weaker program offerings were hampering viewership of their stronger syndicated slate.
At the start of the 1989–90 television season, Fox added a third night of programming, on Mondays. The season heralded the start of a turnaround for Fox. It saw the debut of a midseason replacement series, The Simpsons, an animated series that originated as a series of shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, ranked at a three-way tie for 29th place in the Nielsen ratings, it became a breakout hit and was the first Fox series to break the Top 30. The Simpsons, at 30 years as of 2018, is the longest-running American sitcom, the longest-running American animated program, and in 2009, it surpassed Gunsmoke as the longest-running American scripted primetime television series. That year, Fox also first introduced the documentary series Cops and crime-focused magazine program America's Most Wanted (the latter of which debuted as a half-hour series as part of the network's mainly comedy-based Sunday lineup for its first season, before expanding to an hour and moving to Fridays for the 1990–91 season). These two series, which would become staples on the network for just over two decades, would eventually be paired to form the nucleus of Fox's Saturday night schedule beginning in the 1994–95 season. Meanwhile, Married... with Children which broke ground from other family sitcoms of the period as it centered on a dysfunctional lower-middle-class family, whose patriarch often openly loathed his failures and being saddled with a wife and two children saw viewer interest substantially increase beginning in its third season after, in an ironic twist, Michigan homemaker Terry Rakolta lodged a boycott to force Fox to cancel the series after objecting to risque humor and sexual content featured in a 1989 episode. Married...'s newfound success led it to become the network's longest-running live-action sitcom, airing for 11 seasons.
1990s: Rise into mainstream success and beginnings of rivalry with the Big ThreeEdit
Fox survived where DuMont and other attempts to start a fourth network had failed because it programmed just under the number of hours defined by the FCC to legally be considered a network. This allowed Fox to make revenue in ways forbidden to the established networks (for instance, it did not have to adhere to the Financial Interest and Syndication Rules that were in effect at the time), since during its first years it was considered to be merely a large group of stations. By comparison, DuMont had been saddled by numerous regulatory barriers that hampered its potential to grow, most notably a ban on acquiring additional stations, during an era when the FCC had much tighter ownership limits for television stations (limiting broadcasters to a maximum of five stations nationwide) than it did when Fox launched. In addition, Murdoch was more than willing to open his wallet to get and keep programming and talent. DuMont, in contrast, operated on a shoestring budget and was unable to keep the programs and stars it had.
Most of the other startup networks that launched in later years (such as The WB, UPN and The CW) followed Fox's model as well. Furthermore, DuMont operated during a time when the FCC did not require television manufacturers to include UHF capability. In order to see DuMont's UHF stations, most people had to buy an expensive converter. Even then, the picture quality was marginal at best. By the time Fox launched, cable allowed UHF stations to generally be on an equal footing with VHF stations.
Although Fox was growing rapidly as a network and had established itself as a presence, it was still not considered a major competitor to the established "Big Three" broadcast networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC. From its launch, Fox had the advantage of offering programs intended to appeal toward a younger demographic adults between 18 and 49 years of age – and that were edgier in content, whereas some programs that were carried by the "Big Three" networks attracted an older-skewing audience. Until the early 1990s, when Fox expanded its programming to additional nights and outside prime time, most Fox stations were still essentially formatted as independent stations – filling their schedules with mainly first-run and acquired programming, and, during prime time, running either syndicated programs or, more commonly, movies on nights when the network did not provide programming. Few Fox stations carried local newscasts during the network's early years, unlike the owned-and-operated stations and affiliates of its established rivals. Those that did were mostly based in larger markets (including some of the network's O&Os) and retained newscasts that had aired for decades. Even then, these news operations were limited to one newscast per day, following the network's prime time lineup.
On September 6, 1990, Fox reached an agreement with TCI (the nation's largest cable company at the time) in which TCI systems in markets that were not served by an over-the-air Fox affiliate at the time would become charter affiliates of a cable-only national feed of the network known as Foxnet. The cable-only network launched on June 6, 1991, bringing Fox programming to smaller markets that did not carry a default Fox affiliate at the time; it would manage to reach a total of 1.3 million subscribers by 1992.
As Fox gradually headed towards carrying a full week's worth of programming in prime time through the addition of programming on Thursday and Friday nights at the start of the 1990–91 season the network's added offerings included the scheduling of The Simpsons opposite veteran NBC sitcom The Cosby Show as part of Fox's initial Thursday night lineup that fall (along with future hit Beverly Hills, 90210, which would become the network's longest-running drama, airing for ten seasons) after only a half-season of success on Sunday nights. The show performed well in its new Thursday slot, spending four seasons there and helping to launch Martin, another Fox comedy that became a hit when it debuted in August 1992. The Simpsons returned to Sunday nights in the fall of 1994, and has remained there ever since.
The sketch comedy series In Living Color, which debuted in April 1990, created many memorable characters and launched the careers of future movie stars Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, Damon Wayans, Keenen Ivory Wayans and Jennifer Lopez (the latter of whom was a member of the show's dance troupe, the "Fly Girls"). The series also gained international prominence after Fox aired a special live episode in January 1992 as an alternative to the halftime show during Super Bowl XXVI, which was broadcast on CBS, marking the start of Fox's rivalry with the "Big Three" networks while popularizing the counterprogramming strategy against the Super Bowl telecast.
The early and mid-1990s saw the debuts of several soap opera-style prime time dramas aimed at younger audiences that became quick hits, which, in addition to Beverly Hills, 90210, included its adult-focused spin-off Melrose Place (which initially had a mediocre ratings performance, before viewership rose significantly midway through its first season following Heather Locklear's addition to the cast) and family drama Party of Five. The early and mid-1990s also saw the network launch several series aimed at a black audience, which, in addition to Martin, included the sitcom Living Single and police procedural New York Undercover.
Luring the NFL and affiliation switchesEdit
Despite having a few successful shows like the science fiction drama The X-Files, Fox still lacked credibility among viewers. Even those working in television thought of the network as "the one that has that cartoon show" (The Simpsons). More than 85% of affiliates in 1993 were UHF stations. Fox become a viable competitor to the older networks when it won broadcast television rights to the National Football League away from CBS. In December 1993, Fox signed a contract with the NFL to televise games from the National Football Conference—which had been airing its games on CBS since 1956—starting with the 1994 season. The initial four-year contract, which Fox bid $1.58 billion to obtain—while CBS offered $295 million per year to retain the rights—also included the exclusive U.S. television rights to Super Bowl XXXI in 1997. The network also lured Pat Summerall, John Madden, Dick Stockton, Matt Millen, James Brown, Terry Bradshaw, and behind-the-scenes production personnel, from CBS Sports to staff its NFL coverage.
Shortly afterward, News Corporation began striking affiliation deals with, and later purchasing, more television station groups. On May 23, 1994, Fox agreed to purchase a 20% stake in New World Communications, a television and film production company controlled by investor Ronald Perelman that had just recently entered into broadcasting through its 1993 purchase of seven stations owned by SCI Television. As a result of Fox acquiring a 20% minority interest in the company, New World signed an agreement to switch the affiliations of twelve stations (eight CBS affiliates, three ABC affiliates [two of which were subsequently placed in a blind trust and then sold directly to Fox due to conflicts with FCC ownership rules], and one NBC affiliate) that it had either already owned outright or was in the process of acquiring from Citicasters and Argyle Communications at the time to Fox starting in September 1994 and continuing as existing affiliation contracts with their existing major network partners expired.
That summer, SF Broadcasting, a joint venture between Fox and Savoy Pictures that was founded in March 1994, purchased four stations from Burnham Broadcasting (three NBC affiliates and one ABC affiliate); through a separate agreement, those stations would also switch to Fox between September 1995 and January 1996 as existing affiliation agreements lapsed. These two deals were not the first instances in which a longtime "Big Three" station affiliated with Fox: the network scored its first major coup when it moved its Miami affiliation from charter affiliate WCIX (which became a CBS owned-and-operated station, now WFOR-TV) to NBC affiliate WSVN in January 1989, the result of a three-station affiliation swap spurred by NBC's purchase of longtime CBS affiliate WTVJ. Through the expansion of its news programming and a refocused emphasis on crime stories and sensationalistic reporting under news director Joel Cheatwood, that switch helped the perennial third-place WSVN become a strong competitor in the Miami market.
The NFC contract, in fact, was the impetus for the affiliation deal with New World and SF Broadcasting's purchase of the Burnham stations, as Fox sought to improve local coverage of its new NFL package by aligning the network with stations that had more established histories and advertiser value than its charter affiliates. The deals spurred a series of affiliation realignments between all four U.S. television networks involving individual stations and various broadcasting groups such as those between CBS and Group W (whose corporate parent later bought the network in August 1995), and ABC and the E. W. Scripps Company (which owned three Fox affiliates that switched to either ABC or NBC as a result of the New World deal) affecting 30 television markets between September 1994 and September 1996. The two deals also had the side benefit of increasing local news programming on the new Fox affiliates, mirroring the programming format adopted by WSVN upon that station's switch to the network (as well as expanding the number of news-producing stations in Fox's portfolio beyond mainly charter stations in certain large and mid-sized markets).
With significant market share for the first time ever and the rights to the NFL, Fox firmly established itself as the nation's fourth major network. Fox Television Stations would acquire New World outright on July 17, 1996 in a $2.48 billion stock purchase, making the latter's twelve Fox affiliates owned-and-operated stations of the network; the deal was completed on January 22, 1997. Later, in August 2000, Fox bought several stations owned by Chris-Craft Industries and its subsidiaries BHC Communications and United Television for $5.5 billion (most of these stations were UPN affiliates, although its Minneapolis station KMSP-TV would rejoin Fox in September 2002 as an owned-and-operated station). In September 2001, Fox also purchased ABC owned-and-operated station WPVI-TV in Philadelphia. As a result, former Fox affiliate WTXF-TV was sold to Scripps, which later signed an affiliation agreement for that station with ABC. These purchases, for a time, made Fox Television Stations the largest owner of television stations in the U.S. (a title that has since been assumed by the Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the network's largest affiliate groups).
Fox completed its prime time expansion to all seven nights on January 19, 1993, with the launch of two additional nights of programming on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (The method of gradually adding nights to the programming schedule that began with the network's April 1987 prime time launch was replicated by The WB and UPN when those networks debuted in January 1995). September 1993 saw the heavy promotion and debut of a short-lived western series that incorporated science-fiction elements, The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. However, it was the supernatural investigative drama that debuted immediately following it on Friday nights, The X-Files, that would find long-lasting success, and would become Fox's first series to crack Nielsen's year-end Top 20 most-watched network programs. After several other failed attempts at late night programming following the cancellation of The Late Show (most notably, the quick failure of The Chevy Chase Show in 1993), Fox finally found success in that time period with the debut of MADtv on October 14, 1995; the sketch comedy series became a solid competitor to NBC's Saturday Night Live for over a decade and was the network's most successful late night program as well as one of its most successful Saturday night shows, running for 14 seasons until 2009.
An attempt to make a larger effort to program Saturday nights by moving Married... with Children from its longtime Sunday slot and adding a new but short-lived sitcom (Love and Marriage) to the night at the beginning of the 1996–97 season backfired with the public, as it resulted in a brief cancellation of America's Most Wanted that was criticized by law enforcement and public officials, and was roundly rejected by viewers, which brought swift cancellation to the newer series. Married... quickly returned to Sundays (before moving again to Mondays two months later); both it and Martin would end their runs at the end of that season. The Saturday schedule was revised in November 1996, to feature one new and one encore episode of Cops, and the revived America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back. Cops and AMW remained the anchors of Fox's Saturday lineup, making it the most stable night in American broadcast television for over 14 years; both shows eventually were among the few first-run programs remaining on Saturday evenings across the four major networks after decreasing prime time viewership – as more people opted to engage in leisure activities away from home rather than watch television on that night of the week led ABC, NBC and CBS to largely abandon first-run series on Saturdays (outside newsmagazines, sports and burned off prime time shows that failed on other nights) in favor of reruns and movies by the mid-2000s. America's Most Wanted ended its 22-year run on Fox in June 2011, and was subsequently picked up by Lifetime (before being cancelled for good in 2013); Cops, in turn, would move its first-run episodes to Spike in 2013 after 23 seasons (ending its original run on Fox as the network's longest-running prime time program) and would be cancelled in 2020, leaving sports and repeats of reality and drama series as the only programs airing on Fox on Saturday evenings.
During the 1997–98 season, Fox had three shows in the Nielsen Top 20 (in terms of total viewers), The X-Files (which ranked 11th), King of the Hill (which ranked 15th) and The Simpsons (which ranked 18th). Building around its flagship animated comedy The Simpsons, Fox would experience relative success with animated series in prime time, beginning with the debut of the Mike Judge-produced King of the Hill in 1997. Family Guy (the first of three adult-oriented animated series from Seth MacFarlane to air on the network) and Futurama (from Simpsons creator Matt Groening) would make their debuts in 1999, however, they were canceled in 2002 and 2003 respectively. Due to strong DVD sales and highly rated cable reruns on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, Fox later decided to order new episodes of Family Guy, which began airing in 2005. Futurama would be revived with four direct-to-DVD films between 2007 and 2009 and would return as a first-run series on Comedy Central, where it ran from 2010 to 2013. Less successful efforts included The Critic, starring Saturday Night Live alumnus Jon Lovitz (which Fox picked up in 1994 after it was cancelled by ABC, only for the series to be cancelled again after its second season), and The PJs (which moved to The WB in 2000, after Fox cancelled that series after its second season). Other notable shows that debuted in the late 1990s included the quirky David E. Kelley-produced live-action dramedy Ally McBeal, the short-lived game show Greed, and the period comedy That '70s Show, the latter of which became Fox's second-longest-running live-action sitcom, airing for eight seasons.
Throughout the 1990s and into the next decade, Fox launched a slate of cable channels beginning with the 1994 debuts of general entertainment network FX and movie channel FXM: Movies from Fox (now FX Movie Channel), followed by the debut of Fox News Channel in August 1996. Its sports operations expanded with the acquisition of controlling interests in several regional sports networks (including the Prime Network and SportsChannel) between 1996 and 2000 to form Fox Sports Net (which launched in November 1996), its 2000 purchase of Speedvision (later Speed Channel, which was replaced in the United States by Fox Sports 1 in August 2013, however, it continues to exist in other North American and Caribbean countries as Fox Sports Racing), and the launches of Fox Sports World (later Fox Soccer, which was replaced by FXX in September 2013) and Fox Sports en Español (now Fox Deportes) in the early 2000s.
2000s: Rise to ratings leadership, the American Idol effect, and fierce rivalry with CBSEdit
By 2000, many staple Fox shows of the 1990s had ended their runs. During the late 1990s and carrying over into the early 2000s, Fox put much of its efforts into producing reality shows many of which were considered to be sensationalistic and controversial in nature – such as Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?, Temptation Island, Married by America, and Joe Millionaire (which became the first Fox program ever to crack the Nielsen Top 10), as well as video clip shows such as World's Wildest Police Videos and When Animals Attack!. After shedding most of these programs, Fox gradually filled its lineup with acclaimed dramas such as 24, The O.C., House, and Bones, and comedies such as The Bernie Mac Show, Malcolm in the Middle, and Arrested Development.
As the decade wore on, Fox began surpassing ABC, NBC and The Disney Network in the ratings first in age demographics, then in overall viewership and placed second behind a resurgent CBS in total viewership beginning in 2002. Fox hit a major milestone in 2005 when it emerged as the most-watched U.S. broadcast network in the lucrative 18–49 demographic for the first time, largely boosted by the strength of the reality singing competition series American Idol. Regarded as the single most dominant program on 21st-century U.S. television, as well as the first Fox show to lead the Nielsen seasonal ratings, Idol had peak audiences of up to 38 million viewers during the 2003 season finale and double-season average audiences of around 31 million viewers in 2006 and 2007. Subsequently, it leapfrogged over Fox's Big Three competition to become the highest-rated U.S. television program overall starting with the 2003–04 season, becoming the first reality singing competition series in the country ever to reach first place in the seasonal ratings.
Idol remains the most recent U.S. television program to date to lead the national prime time ratings and attract at least 30 million viewers for at least two television seasons. It became as the most watched program on U.S. television by seasonal average viewership in the 2000s decade, as well as the most recent program scheduled to have successfully established a graveyard slot on U.S. television since the end of NBC's Friends in 2004 and the subsequent decline of the network's previously dominant "Must See TV" Thursday timeblock. By 2005, reality television succeeded sitcoms as the most popular form of entertainment in the U.S. as a result of Fox's rise with Idol and NBC's network declines. House, which aired as Idol's lead-out program on Tuesday nights, earned international prominence in the 21st century and became Fox's first prime time drama series (and the network's third program overall) to reach the Nielsen Top 10 beginning 2006.
Beginning 2004 and until TDN surpassed them, CBS and Fox, which ranked as the two most-watched broadcast networks in the U.S. during the 2000s, have tended to equal one another in demographic ratings among general viewership, with both networks winning certain demographics by narrow margins; however, while Fox has the youngest-skewing viewer base, CBS is consistently regarded to have the oldest audience demographics among the major broadcast networks. Fox hit a milestone in February 2005 by scoring its first-ever sweeps victory in total viewership and demographic ratings, boosted largely by its broadcast of Super Bowl XXXIX and the strengths of American Idol, 24, House, and The O.C.
In September 2006, as a result of the increasing number of over-the-air Fox affiliates and the increased availability of digital subchannels carrying Fox in certain markets, Foxnet was discontinued. Then, a sweeping milestone came by the conclusion of the 2007–08 season on May 21, 2008, shortly after the widely acclaimed seventh-season finale of American Idol, when Fox outranked longtime leader CBS as the most watched television network overall in the United States, attributed to the strengths of Super Bowl XLII and its NFL game coverages, Idol and House during that season. To date, Fox is the only non-Big Three network to top the overall Nielsen ratings since its inception in the 1950–51 season.
In the late 2000s, Fox launched a few series that proved to be powerful hits in different respects. In 2007, the network began production on the game shows Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? and Don't Forget the Lyrics; both shows ran for a total of three seasons each, making them the longest-running game shows in Fox's history. In 2008, the supernatural mystery series Fringe debuted to moderate ratings but earned critical acclaim during its first season on Tuesdays. Throughout its run, the series developed a large loyal fanbase that turned the show into a cult favorite. In 2009, Glee premiered to average ratings when its pilot aired as a lead-out program of the eighth-season finale of American Idol, but earned positive reviews from critics. The cast of the series has been acknowledged by notable luminaries such as the President of the United States Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey, who have each asked the cast to perform live for various national events.