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 launched 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 in June and will return in the Fall. 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.
AUGUST 2012 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live + Same Day Primetime Ratings Comparison / August 2012 vs. August 2011 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
AUGUST 2012: Typically, FX does not like to play in the summertime. Its signature series and scripted original dramas do not come out. Summer movies are usually the star, and with the war chest of titles that are heavy on super heroes, the strategy usually works. The summer of 2012 has not seen any dramas on FX, but comedies are out in full force on Thursday nights. The strategy worked in July, but August had mixed success. Compared to last year’s ratings, men 18-49 nudged up 4% while women fell 14%. Compared to last month the 18-49 demos are down by 20%.
Jumping right into the thick of things, Thursday night was, hands-down, the most interesting programming night on FX. ANGER MANAGEMENT is in its second month, and having managed to exceed the contractual ratings threshold, it has received its order for a full round of 100 episodes. The program was at the top of the charts this month, with a nice men 18-49 comp going for it. The best-rated episode featured Charlie Sheen’s dad, Martin. The program pulls younger and stronger male comps than its lead-in, the original Charlie Sheen sitcom, TWO AND A HALF MEN. The bad news is that the program dropped slightly more than one-fourth of its ratings, across the board, vs. last month.
The rest of the Thursday night line-up didn’t do much better. WILFRED dropped half of its audience from last month, while LOUIE dropped 42% of its core men 18-49. Compared to last year, WILFRED is down 43% while LOUIE is down by 24% among those important young men. Why the declines? It was a competitive month for male viewers with Olympics running non-stop, and when the games were over, the cable floodgates opened.
The good news is that even with these precipitous declines, ratings for the night are down only 7% for men 18-49. The losses were stemmed with ANGER MANAGEMENT’s stronger ratings vs. last year’s TWO AND A HALF MEN stacks.
UFC was also a highlight on the line-up, appearing on just one Saturday night, but making a strong impact.
And the rest of FX was all about movies. Taken remains a ratings winner for the net. Super heroes continue to do well, with Transformers Revenge of the Fallen taking the second spot among theatricals. Step Brothers, Hancock, Knowing, Zombieland and Armageddon were next.
Looking ahead, FX has built strong momentum through the summer, and is set up for a good fall season that will include SONS OF ANARCHY, IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, THE LEAGUE and AMERICAN HORROR STORY.