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FX Analysis - March 2011 - Broadcasting & Cable

FX Analysis - March 2011

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MARCH 2011 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. 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.

In September, 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).

MARCH 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

M18-49

W18-49

Monday 8-11pm

13%

47%

32%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-25%

-19%

-23%

Wednesday 8-11pm

34%

18%

-3%

Thursday 8-11pm

48%

27%

42%

Friday 8-11pm

14%

31%

-7%

Saturday 8-11pm

15%

2%

18%

Sunday 8-11pm

27%

30%

48%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

14%

16%

12%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

MARCH 2011: This month, FX's performance is all about perspective. Ratings were better than any single month of 2010, but worse than any single month of 2011 to date. Bottom-line ratings were up by about 15% vs. last year but down 10% vs. last month. And that's not where the mixed news ends.

** On Tuesdays, LIGHTS OUT showed some improvement over last month (+7% on men 18-49), but was still the lowest rated program in primetime, and a cancellation announcement in March made its end on FX official.

** On Wednesdays, JUSTIFIED was the best rated program, head and shoulders above all other March programs, but core men 18-49 ratings were down 48% vs. last year and 18% vs. last month. The program will be back for a third season next year.

** On Thursdays, TWO AND A HALF MEN helped lead the night to a 32% climb on adult 18-49 ratings, but brought older audiences with it and median age increased 40% for the night. Apparently this isn't an issue for FX, as HOW I MET MY MOTHER will join the line-up this fall.

** Also on Thursdays, ARCHER consistently lost audience from its TWO AND A HALF MEN lead-in and is off 10% on core men 18-49 vs. last year, but it received a renewal for a third season.

** And finally, despite all of the original program efforts, original programs don't drive the network. Among men 18-49, movies grabbed seven of the top ten telecasts, led by Iron Man, Step Brothers and Live Free or Die Hard. Among women 18-49 TWO AND A HALF MEN took eight of the top ten spots, with Iron Man and Madagascar taking the other two.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

No matter how you look at it, FX continues to evolve its brand, pushing out new series, breaking new ground, choosing its playing field, and expanding primetime genres. Original new comedies and animation were met with success (LOUIS, ARCHER), as was the addition of an off-net comedy (TWO AND A HALF MEN) to the line-up. The network lost its golden touch with the failures of original dramas TERRIERS and LIGHTS OUT, prompting network head John Landgraf to acknowledge the changing viewing habits brought on by DVRs and convergence.

But the game isn't over for FX. Live sports coverage is coming back to the network after a five-year hiatus.  Both college football and soccer deals are already sealed.The original drama in-development slate is active and continues to push boundaries with POWERS and AMERICAN HORROR STORY. The idea of latenight programming has been floated. Off-net comedy HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER will join the line-up starting this fall. Maybe "evolve" was too mild of a word.

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