A rough week for "The X-Factor" made it a brutal week in the ratings for Fox, which established an historic low-water mark for a big broadcast network during the key November sweeps period.
The Nielsen company said Fox's prime-time average of 3.8 million viewers last week was smaller than any recorded by ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox in November. Fox also finished fourth among the young viewers that are its most sought-after audience.
Simon Cowell's "The X-Factor," never a big hit, has collapsed this fall, down 28 percent from last year, Nielsen said. Viewers interested in music competition shows have clearly bet on NBC's "The Voice," which exceeded 11 million viewers for both of its episodes last week.
"The X-Factor" last Wednesday had 4.5 million viewers, with Thursday's audience 3.7 million. That's tough to recover from, since the show fills three hours of Fox's prime time. A glitch last week really hurt: A mistake in a posted phone number meant Fox had to throw the week's voting results out, eliminating a big reason to watch Thursday's show.
Fox couldn't point to many other highlights, either. Its most-watched show, "Sleepy Hollow" on Monday, ranked No. 38 for the week in broadcast. Shows with critical success like "Glee" and "New Girl" have lost steam in the ratings.
It was the week after the World Series ended, and Fox noted that it's often a difficult point for the network. Several of its prime-time shows have been pre-empted by baseball the past couple of weeks and viewers have drifted away.
Fox executives say they're focusing on the big picture, which is that viewership overall this fall is up over last year, and that ratings for its young demographic are holding up better than its rivals.