FX Analysis - December 2010 - Broadcasting & Cable

FX Analysis - December 2010

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DECEMBER 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

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 conversation and the branding, but movies still 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 original over the course of the summer. When originals are on the air they tend to run mid-week, Monday through Thursday, and always at 10PM for content reasons.

This September, FX added TWO AND A HALF MEN to the primetime line-up; the first time an acquired off-net comedy has regularly run in primetime in a few years (THAT '70s SHOW was once a Friday night staple). The program is not run as a strip, but is primarily used as a two-hour comedy block on Thursdays and Saturdays. TWO AND A HALF MEN also runs in daytime / early fringe along with some other acquired sitcoms (MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE, THE BERNIE MAC SHOW).

DECEMBER 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / December 2010 vs. December 2009  (% Change)

HH

M18-49

W18-49

Monday 8-11pm

-7%

-22%

11%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-18%

-21%

-22%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-19%

-17%

-25%

Thursday 8-11pm

-20%

-29%

-24%

Friday 8-11pm

-34%

-18%

-46%

Saturday 8-11pm

-7%

0%

-17%

Sunday 8-11pm

--27%

-21%

-15%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-19%

-19%

-22%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

DECEMBER 2010: FX's brief November growth spurt came to an end this December, as core 18-49 ratings fell five percent vs. last month and twenty percent vs. last year. Overall, 2010 underperformed 2009 by about ten percent, with not one month of 2010 able to top its corresponding 2009 month on adult 18-49 ratings.

SONS OF ANARCHY finished up its third season this December with the top rated telecast of the month, delivering ratings head and shoulders above all other FX primetime programs this month. The season finale outperformed November's average by 15% on core men 18-49, but 23% lower than the December 2009 season two finale. The real bad news was that there was only one telecast of the program this month; the bottom-line really could have used more SONS.

FX's comedies are hanging in there with the core men 18-49 audience. TWO AND A HALF MEN continues to deliver solid numbers, down just 2% on that demo vs. last month, while IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA and THE LEAGUE are down nine percent and up three percent respectively. Compared to last year's stellar performance, SUNNY is down by one-third on men 18-49, while THE LEAGUE dropped just 5%. Of note, women are tuning out from FX's original comedies; both SUNNY and THE LEAGUE dropped significant female audience vs. both last month and last year.

On Wednesdays, TERRIERS had its final telecast, which again improved vs the previous month, but it wasn't enough to rescue the program from cancellation. The program has been at the bottom of the ratings rankers since its launch. For its 13-episode run TERRIERS averaged 690,000 total viewers and 359,000 adults 18-49, according to press releases from FX. The program was an attempt at a less edgy show by FX standards, but apparently it didn't have enough bite to stick around.

Movies are always a big component of the FX schedule, never more-so than at holiday time. Christmas themed movies abound, with Christmas With the Kranks near the top of the charts (number two to SONS), and Deck the Halls not too far behind. Children's movies were common as well: Horton Hears a Who, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Night at the Museum and Kung Fu Panda came out for the holidays.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

FX original programming was in full force this year, but despite all the new efforts and record-setting ratings, bottom-line audience was actually down vs. last year. But FX is all about image. Despite the fact that the vast majority of its programming is acquired theatricals, it is branded as an edgy producer of original programming. And despite the fact that it is a cable network, it prefers comparisons to broadcast, therefore launching its biggest and best right in the middle of the broadcast network's biggest season.

The newest original, LIGHTS OUT, premiered in January to critical acclaim and ratings disappointment. Network head John Landgraf points to an increasingly competitive landscape, claiming there were 52 original series debuting in January and February alone. Timeshifted viewing is certainly not helping either. Nonetheless, FX claims it will stand behind the program and give it a chance to grow. Notably, the door was opened to moving originals to 9PM for better lead-in scheduling.

Comedies remain a growth area at FX. "What we want to do with comedies is very much what we did with dramas," said John Landgraf, FX President. "Put shows on the air that are really smart, really edgy and distinctive."  Good writing that helps showcase the star of the program is also essential to the originals brand on FX.

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