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.
OCTOBER 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / October 2011 vs. October 2010 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
OCTOBER 2011: While this analysis should start out with the primetime bottom line ratings improvements, we feel obligated to start with a bow to the 230% improvement on core men 18-49 on Wednesday nights, brought to FX courtesy of AMERICAN HORROR STORY. It’s not often that you see a top tier network enjoy a ratings jump more than triple the previous year’s levels, so let’s savor the moment.
But FX was not a one-hit wonder this October. AMERICAN HORROR STORY, with its record-breaking premiere (FX's most-watched original series premiere when counting live+7 numbers according to FX), was just one of many success stories. This was FX’s most-watched month in its history on adults 18-49.
SONS OF ANARCHY was in the second month of its fourth season this October, performing about 10% better than last year on adults 18-49. It was actually the top rated program on FX this month, topping AMERICAN HORROR STORY, and it helped pull up Tuesday nights to considerable heights vs. last year. Both SONS and HORROR received renewal notices before their seasons were out.
Thursday night is comedy night, with TWO AND A HALF MEN leading into ITS ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA and THE LEAGUE. Each of these comedies pulled in about one-third more men than last year.
With October primed as an important month for FX, some of the biggest theatricals in the net’s vast movie library were put into play. Transformers 2 and Twilight were rolled out to support the original dramas, to great effect.
The bad news for FX came with newly scheduled acquired sitcom, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. The program was relegated to the highly unpopular Friday and Saturday night slots, and fell to the bottom of the ratings charts. Also, College Football is pulling in less than spectacular ratings, but live sports events are not all about the numbers.
Overall, a stellar month for FX as its strategy of sticking to its edgy, gritty brand of programming pays out.