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 or two hours of originals 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.
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). The program met with success, and HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER joined the line-up this fall.
NOVEMBER 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / November 2011 vs. November 2010 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
NOVEMBER 2011: FX lost a lot of men vs. last month and a few men vs. last year. The net became younger and more female with the growth of women 18-49. In the end, adults 18-49 grew 5% over 2010 and lost 9% over October.
Before we get into the catalysts behind the ups and downs of FX this month, it is worth noting that just a couple of years ago the net was almost nothing but movies. Back in the day, the net would go months without any original fare. There were just three hours of primetime that offered non-movie fare on FX in November 2009. And here we are in November 2011 and FX has developed a robust programming slate: a pair of ratings grabbing original dramas (SONS OF ANARCHY and AMERICAN HORROR STORY); two off-net sitcoms (TWO AND A HALF MEN and HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER); two original comedies (SUNNY and THE LEAGUE), and believe it or not, some College Football on Saturdays. While there were just three hours of non-movie fare in November 2009, there were twenty-four hours of alternate programming in November 2011. Through it all FX has been able to hold onto its gritty image and its core men 18-49.
This month there weren’t too many growth areas on FX, but where there was growth, it was significant. SONS OF ANARCHY, in its fourth season tops the charts on all demos. Its four telecasts this month took the top four slots in the ratings rankers. The show is showing slight improvement over both last year and last month. The new program to the network, AMERICAN HORROR STORY, bowed last month to huge ratings and public notice, if not critical acclaim. Still, the program is breaking boundaries and again sets up FX as a pushing the envelope kind of network. AMERICAN HORROR STORY actually skews female, which is not common for edgy FX dramas. Ratings have dropped 5% among men and grown 9% among women since its heavily promoted debut last month. This month’s four telecasts of AMERICAN HORROR STORY placed fifth through eighth on the ratings rankers.
HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER shows healthy 10% growth on 18-49 demos since last month, and TWO AND A HALF MEN is still holding on to its core men 18—49, if not women. The program has ridden a wave of dubious publicity all year, and it looks like the show has crested, with barely any movement among male ratings and a 21% drop on women since last year.
Original comedies SUNNY and THE LEAGUE have both seen significant drops in audience, but are considered valuable niche programs, and will be back for more.
College Football is the non-sequitor, but it runs only occasionally on low-rated Saturday nights, and doesn’t do too much harm to the line-up.
Movies are still a prominent part of the FX line-up, setting the stage for the original fare, and keeping those young male viewers tuning in. Although this month’s movies brought a lot of female fans to the network, which can be explained in a single word: Twilight.