FX Analysis - January 2011

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* Bold denotes programming change


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. 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.

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).


Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / January 2011 vs. January 2010  (% Change)




Monday 8-11pm




Tuesday 8-11pm




Wednesday 8-11pm




Thursday 8-11pm




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Sunday 8-11pm




MTWTFSS 8-11pm




Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

JANUARY 2011: FX posted its best numbers in over a year. In fact, this was the best performing month on our records for men 18-49 ratings. Over the past three years, only one month, December 2009, produced stronger household and women 18-49 ratings than January 2011. Bottom-line men 18-49 ratings were 33% better than last month and 20% better than last year.

Where was all this long-awaited growth coming from? Primarily from movies. To be more precise, Sunday night movies, which grew 62% vs. last year and 84% vs. last month. Of the 15 top rated telecasts on men 18-49, 14 of them were movies. The top four were all Iron Man. Incredible Hulk and Hancock also appeared on the list multiple times. Once again we see the super-hero genre lifting up FX. As a rule, FX can always count on super-heroes and Angelina Jolie for a nice ratings spike.

It wasn't just blockbuster movies to the rescue. ARCHER's second season premiered at the end of January. According to FX, it had a "very solid sophomore season bow. Against significantly stronger competition (notably the JERSEY SHORE juggernaut on MTV), ARCHER retained 84 percent of its year-ago bow in P18-49 and boosted its first season average by +41%." ARCHER was the only non-movie telecast to make that top 15 list.

TWO AND A HALF MEN also improved this month. Whether it was due to the momentum generated from the movies or the publicity generated from series star Charlie Sheen, the program's adult 18-49 ratings grew 13% from last month.

There was bad news for FX this month, and it came with new series LIGHTS OUT. It was FX's second original program (after TERRIERS) to grab both critical acclaim and poor ratings. It was at the bottom of the ratings stack, and was one of FX's lowest-rated premieres ever. It lost over half its lead-in audience, and the second and third episodes dropped half the audience of the debut telecast. Network president John Landgraf was candid at Thc Critics Tour, admitting disappointment with the series' weak debut, but holding out hope that the program would find its audience over time.  Landgraf said the vastly crowded, competitive landscape was the biggest factor, pointing to other premieres the same night as LIGHTS OUT's debut: THE GAME drew a historic 7.7 million viewers on BET, TOSH.O on Comedy Central drew a large, young, male audience and MTV's premiere of TEEN MOM 2 drew a large, young, female audience.


After a lack-luster ratings year, FX is off to a good start in 2011. Although LIGHTS OUT and TERRIERS were not ratings successes, ARCHER and JUSTIFIED are off to strong starts. Even with all of its original programming efforts and publicity, movies remain at the heart of FX's programming and its rating's bottom-line. 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 to go against the broadcast networks, therefore launching its biggest and best right in the middle of the broadcast networks' biggest season.

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.