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.All of FX’s TV-MA rated programs are scheduled in the 10PM time period
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/October and January/February. FX blatantly bucks the cable trend of launching and showcasing marquee programming in the summertime and the holiday season.
There is a fair amount of regularity to FX's weekly schedule. Tuesdays and Wednesdays feature signature original dramas when they are running. Thursdays are home to original comedies and acquired sitcoms. Fridays host UFC Fight Championships and the biggest blockbuster titles are usually shown on Sundays.
DECEMBER 2012 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live + Same Day Primetime Ratings Comparison / December 2012 vs. December 2011 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
2012: FX started the year slow, unable to match the peaks hit in 2011. A focus on launching latenight programs might have taken the FX eye off the primetime prize. Consistent scheduling and established franchises helped minimize losses and ratings rallied later in the year, particularly among younger men. Aggressive theatrical acquisition remains an important strategy. Development of originals is going full throttle, and new FX efforts abound. The aperture is opening as some of the new programs target older and more female audiences (THE AMERICANS and THE BRIDGE, for example), but the crux of the FX original and the FX brand is still based on provocative material with big, breakout characters and themes.
December 2012: Led by SONS OF ANARCHY, FX managed to hold onto its male audience vs. last month and last year. However, women did not stick around and there was a 19% drop in their average primetime ratings vs. last December.
With only a handful of originals on the air, movies were the primary support system this December. There were 18.5 hours or non-theatrical, original primetime programs last year, this year there were just nine. While movie ratings held for men, they fell for households and women, as reflected in bottom line ratings. Top titles for men were 2012 and Other Guys, while women were drawn to holiday and children’s titles, Christmas With the Kranks and Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel..
The star of the line-up was SONS OF ANARCHY. The final two episodes of this fifth season more than doubled anything else on the FX line-up, generally pulling ahead of the rest of cable and most of the broadcast offerings within the time slot as well. (Tuesdays at 10PM). Ratings for men were up by 11% over last year, and the show will be back next fall for a sixth season. Of note, these are SD ratings; SONS is often cited as one of the most time shifted programs on tv.
AMERICAN HORROR STORY is one of the few female-skewing dramas on FX. It started its second season strong, but waned as the season went on. The three episodes this month dropped 7% of the women 18-49 audience from last month, and 23% from last year. Still, ratings are strong as compared to the rest of the line-up, This “book” concludes in January, and the series has already been renewed for a third season next fall.
Thursday’s comedy line-up consisted of an eclectic, generally non-comedic mix of movies (Iron Man, Other Guys, Deck the Halls) leading into IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA and LEAGUE. Both programs dropped significant ratings vs. last year and last month, but both programs have been renewed. Despite the eroding ratings, each of the half-hour comedies retains an extraordinarily high concentration of those elusive young male viewers.
UFC is now a frequent visitor to Friday and Saturday nights. This helps give the theatrical rotation a break, and usually draws solid male ratings. Numbers were particularly strong this month, giving Friday and Saturday nights the biggest increases versus both last year and last month.
2013: FX is on an aggressive development path. Many of its more successful series are nearing the 100-episode mark, and the net will need high-profile programs to fill any future gaps.