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 and into July when four comedies premiered, making Thursday the only night with original programming.
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, followed by TOTALLY BIASED, a weekly half-hour series from Executive Producer Chris Rock and starring standup comedian W. Kamau Bell, debuted on Thursday, August 9. In typical FX fashion, the latenight shows are more in keeping with the HBO model than the broadcast model. Like HBO, FX’s late-night shows center on controversial comedians and a weekly schedule rather than a Monday through Thursday middle-America focused variety/talk show.
JULY 2012 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live + Same Day Primetime Ratings Comparison / July 2012 vs. July 2011 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
JULY 2012: FX was quiet during this year’s upfront season, revealing only one new program for the upcoming year. Apparently the net was saving its programming news for the summer TCA tour.
In July alone, new program announcements included a script-development deal for a one-hour drama with Dr. Dre, a pilot order for Scandinavian crime drama THE BRIDGE and a comedy pilot for BRONX WARRANTS. (THE AMERICANS, about KGB spies in Washington DC was the sole upfront announcement). MIKE & MOLLY was added to the roster of off-net comedies (TWO AND A HALF MEN and HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER), and is set to begin airing in fall of 2014. Renewals announced this month include 90 more episodes of ANGER MANAGEMENT, seven more episodes of late-night half-hour comedy series BRANDX with Russell Brand for an October debut, a fourth season of LOUIE and a third season of WILFRED.
Maybe the net prefers making announcements to an audience more interested in programming than ratings, or maybe it was waiting until ratings picked up a bit before drawing a lot of attention to itself. After a fairly dismal June, ratings did pick up for FX this July. Bottom-line primetime adult 18-49 ratings were up by 6% vs. last year and by 25% vs. last month.
As is usually the case at FX, particularly in the summer months, the line-up was dominated with movies. The craze in super hero / comic book theatricals has been a boon for FX. This month’s top movie performers were Batman, Spiderman and Ice Age.
While movies might take up most of the primetime inventory, original programming is the top ratings performer. The only night with a program line-up this July was Thursday, comedy night.
And at the top of the ratings ranker was ANGER MANAGEMENT, the new Charlie Sheen sitcom. It debuted on June 28th to record-setting ratings. If the first 10 episodes hit a set ratings level, FX has agreed to renew the show for another 90 episodes. Even with a precipitous drop in the next few episodes, FX has strongly hinted that they will place the order. The program dominated the top telecast list with the top four slots, plus numbers 6, 7, 13, 16 and 20. It is surely a good sign when encores make the top 20. Like TWO AND A HALF MEN, ANGER MANAGEMENT has been skewing more male than female, and does better with the 25-54 crowd than the 18-49s.
Ratings for TWO AND A HALF MEN have been fading in the past few months, and the program’s presence is much smaller now. July 2011 hosted 40 primetime telecasts of the show; this July there were seven, plus two special marathons.
The original comedy WILFRED follows ANGER MANAGEMENT at 10. It was off to a slow start in June, but picked up steam this July, more than doubling its audience vs. June. The program gets extraordinarily high young male comps, and is the best rated program on men 18-49, if not on households or adults. It did lose 10% of its men 18-49 ratings vs. last year, but apparently FX isn’t overly concerned as it has already granted a renewal for a third season.
The well-received LOUIE premiered this month, following WILFRED at 10:30. The comedy loses audience from WILFRED, but retains a strong men 18-49 comp (better than a .5 vpvh), and has also received a renewal.