Fox boxed in on premiere

Had hoped to put 'Human Target' on after later NFL game

The NFL has put a crimp in Fox’s launch plans for “Human Target.”

The network had scheduled the premiere of “Target” on Sunday, Jan. 17 specifically because it would air behind the late afternoon NFL playoff game.

But when the NFL announced its postseason TV schedule on Monday, Fox discovered that its game that day would air in the early 1 p.m. (ET) position — and CBS would get the late 4:30 p.m. game. So much for best intentions.

Fox execs weren’t pleased with the turn of events, but had little choice but to keep “Target” as is — and hope that early tune-in from the two-hour eighth season premiere of “24,” which runs immediately after “Target” at 9 p.m., will help. Net insiders say they hope to also grab a few CBS football viewers once the Eye’s game is over.

“Target” will also get a nice boost later in the week, as it airs on Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 9 p.m. behind “American Idol.” (“Target” then swaps Wednesday slots with “Idol” and moves to 8 p.m. the following week.)

With no NFL overrun in the cards, Fox has now scheduled the final hour from last season’s “24” at 7 p.m. on Jan. 17. (If it’s any consolation, that “24” episode was already set to run as “Human Target’s” lead-in on the west coast, where the time zone difference means even a late game doesn’t spill into primetime.)

Although NFL playoff scheduling is never a given, Fox execs were pretty comfortable in assuming that they would get the late game on Jan. 17 — given past patterns.

A few factors wound up hurting Fox, however: NBC’s decision to push for the Dallas/Philadelphia game on Saturday meant that Fox was given the Green Bay at Arizona game on Sunday. Because of Arizona’s time zone, that game had to run later.

And since Fox was running the late game on Jan. 10, they were stuck with the early game on Jan. 17.

One network insider noted that the NFL had worked to accomodate Fox in the past on scheduling issues like this, so it was hard to get too worked up over the turn of events.

Meanwhile, “Target’s loss is “The Simpsons'” gain. Fox is instead now airing the late 4:30 p.m. NFL game this coming Sunday — which means the special 450th episode/20th anniversary episode of “The Simpsons” will now receive a hefty lead-in — and likely post its best ratings in some time.

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