While accounting for a small percentage of the primetime line-up, original series are a key component of FX’s schedule and brand identity. While original series help to set the tone, movies 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. This May there were no originals on the air.
Things will pick up in June, when four comedies premiere. FX will also try to become a player in latenight as it launches two new comedy / variety shows this summer. Comedy night on Thursdays has become a franchise /destination for FX, and it will expand out of primetime into latenight. BRAND X with Russell Brand debuts on Thursday, June 28 at 11PM, followed by TOTALLY BIASED, a weekly half-hour series from Executive Producer Chris Rock and starring standup comedian W. Kamau Bell, beginning on Thursday, August 9. In typical FX fashion, the latenight shows are more in keeping with the HBO model than the broadcast model. Like HBO, FX’s late-night shows center on controversial comedians and a weekly schedule rather than the broadcast model of a Monday through Thursday middle-America focused variety/talk show.
MAY 2012 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live + Same Day Primetime Ratings Comparison / May 2012 vs. May 2011 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
MAY 2012: To borrow a phrase, FX has become a lean, mean fighting machine. Its primetime line-up for the month has been winnowed down to almost all acquired theatricals (lean); the only other offerings were eight telecasts of TWO AND A HALF MEN and a Louis CK special (mean), a single UFC Preliminaries telecast, and four ULTIMATE FIGHTER LIVE telecasts (fighting machine). But in typical FX fashion, the lack of original programming and signature dramas didn’t slow the network down. In fact, bottom-line adult 18-49 primetime ratings were up 10% vs. last year and were even with last month.
Theatricals led the way for FX. Avatar, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Iron Man grabbed big numbers, with the superheroes saving the day both on and off screen. The biggest titles run on Sunday nights, and that night’s movies were, by far, the best ratings draw on the net.
TWO AND A HALF MEN has been cut back to just two runs a week, airing from 10 to 11 on Thursday nights. Last May 40 telecasts ran in primetime, as opposed to just eight this May. Even with the smaller presence, ratings for the show are off by one-third for both men and women.
FX has entered the live sports arena this year with the ULTIMATE FIGHTER franchise. It is working for the net, as the programming is pulling in better ratings and better compositions for young male viewers than movies.
And the last component on the slim FX line-up this month was a special LOUIS CK: LIVE AT THE BEACON airing on May 12. Although the comedian has found a strong, loyal niche with his Thursday night program on FX, the Saturday night stand-up special failed to find much of an audience. Live comedy is a tough genre to sell, even with natural synergies.