FX Networks announced that it will launch a new network, FXX, on Sept. 2 that will form a suite of three channels along with movie channel FXM, and is planning to program them with an ambitious slate of 25 original series, an amount on par with the major broadcast networks.
At an upfront presentation for advertisers, John Landgraf, president of FX Networks, said the three channels will carry the FX brand and personality. Regardless of genre, “you know an FX original when you see it,” Landgraf said.
As expected, FXX will aim at younger views in the 18-to-34 year-old demographic. Some of FX's current comedies, including It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The League and Legit, and its late-night block will move to the new channel, but the plan is to develop original scripted drama for the network as well. The network will launch in more than 74 million homes, with some 50 million of those coming from the former Fox Soccer Channel. FX is planning to develop and produce original miniseries and limited series, particularly for FXM, which will focus on 25 to 54 year-old adults. FX will aim at the heart of the 18 to 49 year-old adult demo.
Landgraf talked about some of the dramas and comedies in development, saying those were just the tip of the iceberg. “The quality of the FX programming lineup is going to improve, “he said.
FX is currently the cable network with the most reach in all of cable entertainment, according to Lou LaTorre, president of ad sales for the Fox Cable Entertainment Group. “We feel quite confident FX will continue to grow as FXX launches as a brand, LaTorre said. “We’ll be in a very strong position heading into this upfront with these complimentary brands.”
Bruce Lefkowitz, executive vice president of ad sales, said that FXX had already signed up four charter clients during the calendar upfront in which advertisers buy ad time based on a January-December schedule. Three of those four clients bought commercials on all three FX networks, with the fourth aiming at only the youngest demographic.
All of the networks will sit on a foundation of acquired series and theatricals that FX has been acquiring in preparation for its expansion. Many of those movies will be available to create substantial VOD offerings for cable operators and will not be available to streaming VOD distributors such as Netflix or Amazon, bolstering the value of the current pay TV environment and discouraging cord cutting.
The FX suite will also include a digital product called FX Now that will include an app and expanded access to on-demand content for authenticated subscribers, said Lefkowitz. Original program will be available on demand the morning after it airs. FX’s Movie Bin will offer 40 movies a month on demand.
FX Now will help monetize online and on demand viewing and create new ad opportunities. Within the three-day C3 TV window, programs on FX Now will carry the same commercial load and viewing will be added to the commercial ratings used to measure ad buys. That viewing will be included in the network’s ratings estimates, as well as it’s post air analysis. After the three-day window, FX will scheudle just 10 commercials per hour in shows run on demand. Ads on these VOD views will be sold using dynamic ad insertion. As much as 10% of them will count toward the number of impressions an advertiser buys from FX, Lefkowitz said.
Ad buyers said they were impressed by the presentation.
“The more vehicles we have to reach young viewers, the better,” said Francois Lee , senior VP at MediaVest. “I always applaud when someone tries something different,” Lee said. With the big names developing programs for the networks, “they are on a growth path.”
“They seem to be doing all the right things,” added Gary Carr, senior VP, executive director of national broadcast at Targetcast. “They’re trying to capture all of the digital viewing. That’s the future.”
When FX launched the Shield, it ushered in a new era of high-quality programs on basic cable for viewers and advertisers. Back then, FX asked media buyers “if you could buy HBO for your clients, would you.” Now, with its turbocharged video on demand offering, he asked the buyers “If you could buy Amazon Prime or Netflix, would you?”
FX will launch a new brand campaign, using the theme "Fearless" to capture the kind of edgy adult programming it has stood for since launching The Shield a decade ago.
Landgraf said FX has picked up new seasons of series including Justified, Sons of Anarchy, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The League and Legit. The late night show Totally Biased will expand to five nights a week.
It also showed advertisers new series coming from creative talent including Ang Lee, the Coen Brothers, Guillermo del Toro, Alexander Payne, Sam Mendes and Paul Giamatti.
Last month, parent company News Corp. also announced plans to turn cable channel Speed into a national cable sports brand with Fox Sports 1.