Updated Monday, July 13, 2015, at 9:15 am PT.
The debut of Fox Television Stations’ latest test, The Boris and Nicole Show starring real-life couple Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker, opened to mixed ratings on July 6, but the show’s numbers aren’t necessarily the first thing TV stations—or several groups involved— will consider when deciding whether to pick up the program.
On day one, Boris and Nicole launched to a 0.9 rating/3 share overnight weighted household average across 12 metered markets and a 0.9/6 among daytime’s key demographic of women 25-54. The show did particularly well in urban markets Atlanta and Detroit, while struggling in Western markets, including Phoenix.
The show fell off a bit on day two, averaging a 0.8/2 in households and a 0.6/4 among women 25-54. Boris and Nicole perked up considerably in New York but fell back to earth a bit in Atlanta and Detroit.
But those early returns don’t worry Frank Cicha, Fox Television Stations senior VP, programming. “What we want to look at for now is improvement of the program as the test progresses,” he says. “We’ve had tests that if you looked at the ratings, you wouldn’t have gone forward. But it’s more important to us that the show gets quantifiably better over the course of its run.”
While a test needs to keep production costs down, Fox made sure to spend wisely. “You have to put on a professional-looking program,” says Cicha, crediting Stephen Brown, FTS executive VP of programming and development and his team with creating a sleek look on a tight budget.
“Boris and Nicole seemed comfortable and they are very attractive, which is aspirational for viewers,” says Bill Carroll, Katz Television Group VP/director of content strategy. “The hour moved well and looked clean.”
The show also is trying some new tricks, like having guests reappear through the hour in different segments. And it’s not common to have a married couple host a daytime talker. “I’m happy we went with a married couple,” says Cicha. “We got the chemistry we were hoping for.”
Should Boris and Nicole be deemed a success and return, it would make a lot of sense as a lead-out for Debmar-Mercury’s Wendy Williams Show, which has been showing steady growth over its past few seasons. Wendy also started life as a test, and although the show struggled in non-New York markets in its early days, it’s caught on nationally.
Stations and studios have been playing with tests for years now, but this is the first time that the Fox Television Stations have teamed up with other station groups.
“Now that we’re a larger company, we’re looking for opportunities to work with other companies,” said Deborah McDermott, senior VP and COO of Media General, which covers 24% of the country. “This was an opportunity for us to test something in the summer months, and we had some time periods that would work.”
Fox started out testing Boris and Nicole in six markets—New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Atlanta, Detroit and Washington, D.C. Last week, it added Philadelphia to the mix. Media General, which also is partnering with Fox to roll out Hollywood Today Live this fall, is testing it in 11 markets, including Indianapolis and Hartford/New Haven, Conn. Sinclair is airing the show in two markets: Baltimore and Raleigh, N.C., and Block Communications has it in one market: Louisville, Ky.
Should the show be deemed successful, the plan for it going forward is still to be determined. The standard business model is to sell a show nationwide in order to make the economics work. Whether a show such as Boris and Nicole could be produced efficiently enough to give it a slow roll out, like Fox did with Warner Bros.’ TMZ Live, remains to be seen.
“I would love doing it that way,” says Cicha. “[It] gives you a lot of freedom. You can use your own timing and do it on your own schedule. But it all comes down to how well the show works on our stations against its production budgets. If it works, we will figure all that out.”
After the four-week test of Boris and Nicole, Fox will take three weeks to test another talker starring a married couple: Ice-T and Coco, produced by Warner Bros. Stations are starting to look at summer tests as not just opportunities to get a feel for whether a show would work over the long haul, but also as a way to program something fresh in the summer.