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, 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 or two hours of originals over the course of the summer. This year the net will mix things up, launching four comedies in June.
When originals are on the air they tend to run mid-week, Monday through Thursday, and always at 10PM for content reasons. However, the door has been opened to moving a drama such as JUSTIFIED to the 9PM slot, thereby creating a companion programming strategy for dramas.
Last year FX added TWO AND A HALF MEN to the primetime line-up; the first time an acquired off-net comedy ran in primetime in a few years (THAT ˜70s SHOW was once a Friday night staple). The program is not used as a strip, but acts 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). HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER joined the line-up this fall with less success.
FEBRUARY 2012 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / February 2012 vs. February 2011 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
FEBRUARY 2012: FX took a tumble this February with double digit declines across the board as compared to last year. Hardest hit was the prized younger 18-49 demo. Median age topped 40 on all nights but Thursdays this month, a rarity for FX. The ratings for 25-54 audiences were slightly higher than the 18-49 ratings, another rarity for the net. Men and households did show slight increases vs. last month, as women took another downturn. In the end, this was one of FX’s older and more male months.
JUSTIFIED was the signature program of record in February, running on Tuesday nights. In the second month of its third season, the program maintained its premiere month live men 18-49 audience, but compared to February 2011, men 18-49 ratings are off by 23%. Women, who were never an important audience segment for the show, are off by 32% vs. last month and 25% vs. last year. FX, looking at time-shifted audiences as well as live audiences, reported an 8% growth among adults 18-49 and a fourth season renewal.
Original FX programming could also be found on Thursday nights where ARCHER and UNSUPERVISED run at 10 and 10:30PM. The 8 – 10PM block is usually filled with TWO AND A HALF MEN. That program has been slipping for the past six months or so, and adult 18-49 ratings were 37% lower vs. last year. But, men 18-49 ratings dropped by just 2% vs. last month, so maybe the program has found its new level. A new Charlie Sheen comedy is set to launch on FX in June, so let’s hope so!
ARCHER was the only returning program to gain audience vs. last year, and that is not just because the program rotation does not include any encores this year. Original, or premiere telecasts are performing nearly 30% better on core men 18-49 this year. ARCHER has also received a renewal notice. UNSUPERVISED is not performing as well as ARCHER, dropping nearly 50% of the lead-in audience.
As always, the key component on FX’s line-up is blockbuster theatricals. The network is still one of the more aggressive in acquiring box office hits, and so we can expect movies to be a big part of the FX programming strategy for the next few years. Most recent acquisitions were Chronicle, Red Tails and Underworld Awakening. In 2011 FX acquired 19 of the year’s highest grossing films, or two-thirds of the films that topped $100 million at the box-office, including Mission Impossible-Ghost Protocol, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and We Bought a Zoo. But anyone (or at least most cable nets) can buy a movie. FX fosters an ideal environment for theatricals, whether they are gritty, family-oriented or based on comic book super heroes. And when FX employs creative scheduling it can really hit a home run. This month viewers were treated to a “No More Football Blues Marathon” (Star Trek) and a “Valentines Weekend Marathon” (The Proposal). Both stunts performed admirably, topping the charts for men and women respectively. Unfortunately, the rest of the titles underperformed, and dragged the bottom-line ratings down with them. On average movie ratings were off by 20% or so for men and about 15% for women. Looks like it's time to roll out some of those new titles.