Sex in a box did not sell with viewers so well as WE tv had hoped; the AMC-owned network has pulled its provocative reality series Sex Box from its schedule after airing five of its nine ordered episodes.
“Sex Box was a bold programming swing that broke new ground but did not connect with large numbers of viewers,” WE tv said this afternoon in a statement to Deadline. “We are working with our production partners on a potential reformatted version of the show and are thankful for the efforts of everyone involved.” Responded Tim Winter, whose Parents Television Council had worked like gangbusters to kill this show: “In order to build a new outhouse, you’ve got to break new ground too.”
Sex Box clocked 378,000 viewers in its unveiling, which grew to 490,000 with Live+3 viewing. These numbers were slightly better than wedding-planning reality series David Tutera’s CELEBrations had done in the slot. But network execs initially were encouraged that some of its premiere’s biggest ratings increases were caused by guys checking it out, given that the network had recently announced it was re-branding itself so as to move from the whole Women’s Entertainment thing to a collective “We.” Sex Box appeared to have brought the two sexes much closer together in the time slot — and isn’t that what sex in a box should be all about?
WE tv announced in August that it had ordered nine episodes of the series, based on the British franchise about couples whose relationships are on the rocks. Participants were selected based on their belief that the best way to heal a broken relationship is to have sex in a box on a stage, while viewers mull what they’re missing because, sadly, the box was opaque and, unlike your apartment building, soundproof. Each week, a new troubled couple had sex in a box, which only sounds like an SNL skit. When finished, the two emerged, in an ecstasy of hormone rage-y, post-shag intimacy, to talk about their experience with celebrity experts.
In advance of its February launch, Parents Television Council created a petition pronouncing Sex Box beyond the bounds of decency, and the most compelling argument to date for a la carte TV. WE jumped on board. “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” WE said in an ad campaign for the show, in advance of its February 27 debut. One hitch: WE wanted all of PTC’s claimed 1.3 million members to watch the show before deciding whether to sign the petition. WE promised to provide a link to the petition on its site WEtv.com. In its ad inviting viewers to sign the petition after watching the show, WE insisted it had every confidence Sex Box would revolutionize couples therapy by “repairing relationships and restoring communication.”
Parents TV Council also, not surprisingly, urged advertisers to take a pass. Arm & Hammer spots appeared in the first episode, after which PTC said it called on the company; its ads were not seen on the show again. Episode 2 included Skechers spots; PTC called on that company. Skechers said the ads ran in the show without their knowledge, and none of their ads appeared on the show again. And so, the weeks went by; after the first three episodes aired in the show’s original 10 PM time slot, Sex Box got moved to midnight.
“The premise was awful, the content was offensive, and it was toxic for advertisers,” PTC president Winter told Deadline this afternoon of Sex Box. “It couldn’t have been a better example of how broken the cable TV business is with its forced bundling of networks.”
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