FX is winning with Charlie Sheen.
The network has lined up four lead sponsors for Sheen's new sitcom Anger Management. Automaker Fiat, which features the former Two and a Half Men star in a new commercial, and studios 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate and Sony, have made commitments that span the show's 10 episodes.
Twentieth, like FX, is part of News Corp.; Lionsgate TV produces Anger Management.
The controversy surrounding Sheen hasn't scared off sponsors, says Michael Brochstein, senior VP for ad sales at FX, a network that is no stranger to provocative content. Unlike other FX comedies, which are rated TV-MA and air at 10 p.m., Anger Management is TV-14 and will air Thursday nights at 9 p.m.
"The key was to get out and screen a rough cut for advertiser," Brochstein says. "That took the content issue off the table. It's not racy. And Charlie's back to being the Charlie everyone loves."
Because FX acquired Anger Management in October, it wasn't part of last year's upfront. In a lukewarm scatter market, "we needed a pretty smart sales strategy," Brochstein said. On top of Sheen's notoriety, it plied buyers and sponsors with stress balls and prescription pads and now the show is well sold at prices on the high end for FX original programming. FX will be selling season two of the sitcom during the upcoming upfront.
The show will debut on June 28, a time when FX anticipates little competition because the basketball and hockey seasons will be over. (It's also a good time for the studios to push their summer movies. There will be one movie spot in each of the show's three commercial breaks.)
More than 3 million people could tune in for the premiere, which will be the biggest night in FX's history according to Brochstein. FX will air a 12-hour Two and a Half Men marathon leading into the first two episodes of Anger Management. Those will be followed by the season premieres of sitcom Wilfred and the award-winning Louie. The evening will be topped off by the debut of the network's new late night show, Brand XWith Russell Brand.