Fox Hunts

While earlier this week Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) warned that it was struggling in its efforts to turn ABC into a profitable network, the same can't be said for its rival Fox Entertainment Group (NYSE: FOX  ) .

The broadcaster and film studio closed out fiscal 2004 in star-studded fashion as earnings rose by 23% for a $1.44-per-share showing. While Disney also produced solid results in its most recent quarter, it's worth noting that Fox achieved those gains largely because of its FOX network, whereas Disney did so despite its ABC woes.

The twist here is that the show that put FOX on the map -- closing out the season as the top draw for young adults in the sponsor-coveted 18-to-34-year-old bracket -- was American Idol. The show's creators went to FOX only after ABC refused to meet with them.

In the words of FOX's own Homer Simpson, "Doh!"

Fox is naturally more than just FOX, as its cable properties include Fox News and FX. It's also got an active movie studio as the company behind the successful X-Men films among others.

Fox remains majority-owned by News Corp. (NYSE: NWS  ) , and it's an influential parent. It swallowed a third of DirecTV (NYSE: DTV  ) for its parent this past quarter, and while News now owns 82% of Fox, it has no intention of buying out the other 18%.

Then again, cozy relationships are part of what makes the entertainment world tick. With political parties ramping up their TV ads and an improving economy finding advertisers willing to pay more for willing viewers, the near term looks bright for the budding entertainment empire. Fox doesn't really need Idol anymore to let everyone know that it's a star.

What will you be watching this fall? Are you a fan of American Idol, or does it ring flat to you? Are you bored with summer reruns, or has reality TV kept it fresh? All this and more in the TV Banter discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has never phoned in a vote for the next idol. He owns shares in Disney.


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