While accounting for a small percentage of the primetime line-up, original series are a key component of FX’s schedule and brand identity. While original series help to set the tone, movies comprise the bulk of the programming and the ratings.
Most cable networks air the majority of their original signature series in the less competitive summer months, but FX likes to play in the pond with the broadcast networks, heavying up on originals in September and January. FX blatantly bucks the cable trend of launching and showcasing marquee programming in the summertime, typically running just one or two hours of originals over the course of the summer.
This year the net will mix things up, premiering four comedies in June. FX will also try to become a player in latenight as it launches two new comedy / variety shows this summer.
MARCH 2012 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / March 2012 vs. March 2011 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
The third month of the quarter brought a third month of declining audiences for FX, with core 18-49 year-over-year ratings dropping again this March. The drop-off has leveled out, as year-over-year ratings were off by 7% vs. last year, as opposed to nearly 20% declines in January and February.
FX claims that most top-rated cable nets were down this year (true), and blames “a temporary gap in FX’s movie inventory” for its own decline (partially true). Average movie ratings were down this March, as were ratings for the two returning programs, JUSTIFIED and TWO AND A HALF MEN.
Only ARCHER, the Thursday night comedy, was able to increase audiences vs. last year. The program has been setting records all season, and its success continued into March. However, it was not able to save the night and Thursday took the biggest year-over-year declines. UNSUPERVISED is ARCHER’s animated comedy lead-out companion, and it was not able to hold audience. The other Thursday night program is TWO AND A HALF MEN, which has been undergoing decline for months. Compared to last year it is delivering 29% fewer men 18-49. Despite mixed ratings, FX showed confidence in all three franchises, renewing both ARCHER and UNSUPERVISED and preparing to launch a Charlie Sheen comedy in June, ANGER MANAGEMENT.
JUSTIFIED was FX’s top-rated program this month, making Tuesday night the best-rated of the week among households and men 18-49. The program dominated the top telecast list with each of its four outings this month. However, ratings are down on core men 18-49, off by 6% vs. last month and 12% vs. last year.
Friday nights are problematic at best for programmers…low viewing levels and fickle viewers define the night. Previously, FX has run theatricals, but the net has recently acquired ULTIMATE FIGHTER, the mixed martial arts reality programming, and is airing it on Friday nights. ULTIMATE FIGHTER LIVE aired on three Fridays this month, and averaged out as the second-best rated men 18-49 program, behind JUSTIFIED.
The rest of the line-up was theatricals, which were experiencing that aforementioned gap in inventory. Because movies are such a big part of FX’s primetime line-up, their performance always has a direct impact on the bottom line. Average movie ratings were up for women vs. both last year and last month, but down for men. Movies did not pull top rankings with men; the top spots were left for FIGHT NIGHT, JUSTIFIED and ARCHER. Only three movies placed in the top 10 telecasts for men 18-49 (Role Models, Superbad and Iron Man), while movies comprised nine of the top ten telecasts for women (Twilight, The Proposal and Taken led the way). It looks like FX experienced more of a gender gap than an inventory gap.