While accounting for a small percentage of the primetime line-up, original series are a key component of FX’s schedule and brand identity. Original series help to set the tone, but 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 May there were no originals on the air.
Things picked up at the end of June, when four comedies premiered. FX is also trying to become a player in latenight as it launches two new comedy / variety shows this summer. Comedy night on Thursdays has become a franchise /destination for FX, and it is expanding out of primetime into latenight. BRAND X with Russell Brand debuted on Thursday, June 28 at 11PM, which was followed by TOTALLY BIASED, a weekly half-hour series from Executive Producer Chris Rock and starring standup comedian W. Kamau Bell, beginning on Thursday, August 9. In typical FX fashion, the latenight shows are more in keeping with the HBO model than the broadcast model, centering on controversial comedians and a weekly schedule rather than the broadcast model of a Monday through Thursday middle-America focused variety/talk show.
JUNE 2012 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live + Same Day Primetime Ratings Comparison / June 2012 vs. June 2011 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
JUNE 2012: As most of cable ramped up programming for the start of the summer season, FX continued to keep non-movie fare at a minimum. As a result the net took some serious hits to its primetime viewing this June. With the notable exception of UFC fight-night Fridays, every night took double-digit declines vs. last year, with adult 18-49 ratings dropping between 15% and 42% and a bottom-line decline of 18%. Compared to last month adult 18-49 primetime ratings were down 9%.
While it was mostly movies on the screen, there was a lot going on behind the FX primetime scenes. Warner Brothers’ MIKE & MOLLY was purchased for $750 million an episode, and is set to begin airing on FX in fall of 2014. Theatrical purchasing has been in full swing, with 13 No. 1 films landing at FX this year, including Ted,The Avengers, Men In Black III, Snow White and the Huntsman and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted. Scripted comedy LEGIT and a Dennis Leary comedy BRONX WARRANTS both went to pilot. Russell Brand’s BRAND X kicked off a series of late-night variety shows airing in the 11PM Thursday night slot. The LA Times review headlined “Russell Brand May Be The Only One Having Fun,” but FX reported decent numbers.
“The series premiere of FX's new late night comedy BrandX with Russell Brand got off to a good start in the 11:00 PM time slot with 1.07 million Total Viewers and 687,000 Adults 18-49, which marked respective increases of +32% and +38% vs. FX time-period average. The series debut of BrandX with Russell Brand performed well last night against other late night cable competition including Conan (TBS 11-midnight), 934,000 Total Viewers and 602,000 Adults 18-49; Chelsea Lately (E! - 11-11:30 PM) 666,000 Total Viewers and 502,000 Adults 18-49; and Watch What Happens: Live (Bravo 11-11:30 PM) 539,000 Total Viewers and 328,000 Adults 18-49.” - FX PR, 6/29/12
However, FX’ primetime air in June was almost entirely filled with movies. The FATHERS DAY MOVIE MARATHON (Taken) was technically the best-rated program on households. Taken aired on Fathers Day 2011 as well, with better ratings. Transformers and Waterboy pulled the best ratings of the month, along with Madagascar 2, timed to air with the release of Madagascar 3 in theaters. Not all kids’ titles did well – Alvin and the Chipmunks and Kung Fu Panda were near the bottom of the rankers. Classic FX titles Avatar, Iron Man and X-Men were in the mix, but they could not pull up the ratings to previous levels.
Also near the bottom of the adult 18-49 rankers was TWO AND A HALF MEN. The Charlie Sheen sitcom is down to just 2 telecasts per week, as opposed to 6 per week last year, while adult 18-49 ratings are down 36%. But apparently FX viewers are not entirely over Charlie, as his new sitcom ANGER MANAGEMENT launched with record-setting numbers on June 28th (which is actually not June when you live in the Nielsen universe). FX claims the show “drew 5.47 million total viewers, ranking it as the network's most-watched series premiere ever and the most-watched scripted primetime comedy series debut in cable history in the adult 18-49 demo, excluding children's programming.”
WILFRED made some news on FX this June as well. Technically not premiering its second season until June 28th, FX took a page from the mothership FOX, and aired a special preview episode ahead of its season two premiere. Before that it ran across video on demand and online platforms beginning June 14. "We've seen the success Fox had previewing GLEE and NEW GIRL with this type of initiative and we felt this was a perfect opportunity to execute a similar strategy for WILFRED," said FX president and general manager John Landgraf in yet another press release. The ratings for the June 21st preview were down by about 70% vs. last year’s debut.
ULTIMATE FIGHTER programming UFC FIGHT NIGHT and ULTIMATE FIGHTER LIVE pulled the best male numbers on the line-up. They helped pull up Friday’s average rating by 89% among men 18-49 vs. last year, and Friday was the only night of the week to show any improvement.