Fox is in the money

'Secret Millionaire' bow exceeds expectations

Fox's new reality effort "Secret Millionaire" performed much better than expected Wednesday night, suggesting that the short-run altruistic series could have a future on the network.

The evening's two episodes of "Millionaire" averaged 7.4 million viewers and a 2.6 rating/ 7 share in the adults 18-49 demographic. Although not huge numbers, the premiere was only modestly promoted and aired in December — when new programs typically have a tough time attracting audiences — so Fox's expectations were low. The show is considered a softhearted departure from the network's usual reality brand of more competition-oriented and envelope-pushing fare.

Yet the "Millionaire" audience grew each half-hour, topping out at a 3.1 rating to beat ABC's "Private Practice" and CBS' "Grammy Nominations Concert Live" during the 9 p.m. hour.

"I'm thrilled and surprised a little bit," said Mike Darnell, Fox's president of alternative entertainment. "We're now at a point where we see a lot more potential."

There are four more episodes of "Millionaire" left to air in the coming weeks, and Fox will get its promotional machine rolling to see whether it can turn a December effort into a returning show.

Overall, CBS won the night with the evening's highest-rated show, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (11.8 million, 4.2/12). The first-ever attempt at airing Grammy nominations (7 million, 2.4/6) performed solidly, while the annual "Victoria's Secret Fashion Show" (8.7 million, 3.6/10) jumped 38% from last year to win the 10 p.m. hour. (partialdiff)
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