APRIL 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:
* Bold denotes programming change
In the first three-quarters of 2009 we saw movies represent nearly 100% of the primetime fare, but FX started to bring on more original series in the fall, and they are keeping the momentum going through-out 2010. Originals tend to run mid-week, when they are running - Monday through Thursday, and always at 10PM for content reasons. This month we get just a little drama on Mondays with DAMAGES and on Tuesdays with JUSTIFIED.
While original series tend to grab the interest of both audiences and the press, FX essentially remains a movie network. The primetime schedule is 85% movies, even when multiple nights of originals are running. Original series help to set the conversation and the branding, not the bulk of the programming.
APRIL 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / April 2010 vs. April 2009 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
The numbers were not good to FX this April. Core 18-49 ratings were down by double digits vs. both last year and last month on every night of the week, except Saturday, where they were down by 5%. Numbers have not been this low since August 2008, 21 months ago. Perhaps most shocking was the net's median age, which actually topped 40 for the first time on our records.
So what happened? As we have said before, FX might hang its branding hat on its signature original series, but movies are the meat of the network. And movies are what drove the numbers down. "Movie Prime" was off by 24% among adults 18-49 vs. last year and down 12% vs. last month. NBA playoffs certainly had a hand in month-to-month declines, but playoffs ran last year too. Titles were all familiar fare (I Robot, Armageddon, Live Free or Die), but core young male viewers just didn't tune in as much as they used to. The Water Horse and Walk the Line really drove away younger male viewers. The only thing they liked less was DAMAGES.
DAMAGES is running on Monday nights with no official word of a cancellation...the net is probably waiting until Emmys are awarded. Both men and women have turned away from this critically acclaimed drama. Compared to last year's run, ratings are down by 47% among men 18-49 and down 61% among women 18-49. DAMAGES' strongest audience has become men 25-54...it used to be a strong female skewing program. Unfortunately, this is not because men 25-54 are tuning in, it's because they are not tuning out as much as the other demos. Men 25-54 ratings dropped 7% vs. last month and 26% vs. last year.
The good news at FX is JUSTIFIED, its new Elmore Leonard drama. After setting ratings records last month, it dropped half of its core men 18-49 in April. But it is still the top ranked show, by a lot. Each of its four telecasts is at the top of the ratings chart. According to FX, JUSTIFIED averaged 7.5 million total viewers through April, and the series ranks as this year's top new series on basic cable in delivery of men 18 to 49 with 1.1 million. "We are very excited about the tremendous, widespread acclaim that JUSTIFIED has received from both audiences and television critics," said FX president and general manager John Landgraf. "Graham Yost, Tim Olyphant, Elmore Leonard and their talented partners have crafted a uniquely ambitious and entertaining series which is everything we aspired to when we developed the show." And best of all, the network has shown so much confidence in the series; it was renewed when it still had six more episodes to air.
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
After taking a long break, FX jumped back into the programming game last year. The new programs are rolling out, and the the network has proved that it still knows how to playf JUSTIFIED is the newest hit on the net. Next up is new dramas LIGHTS OUT and TERRIERS. These two new programs are leading the way to FX's new, more mainstream positioning.
In its Upfront presentation, FX featured a slide placing all of its current and upcoming programming on a continuum, with its edgiest material (IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, SONS OF ANARCHY) towards the left side, and its more mainstream shows (LIGHTS OUT and TERRIERS) on the right, with the other shows in the middle. "I think it is important to talk about the originals in basic cable as a continuum, from the edgy, adult side of it, which we cornered the market with THE SHIELD and NIP/TUCK, to the other end of the spectrum, which would include THE CLOSER or WHITE COLLAR," said Bruce Lefkowitz, executive VP of Fox Cable ad sales. "We are never going to be all the way to the right side, we are never going to do THE CLOSER, because that is not what audiences come to FX for, but we have earned the right to move a little bit more to the right."
The network's expansion of the comedy genre has grown, with THE LEAGUE and ARCHER each picking up renewals and SUNNY producing its best audiences ever. After a low-rated "sneak-peak" in the fall, LOUIE has been relegated to an 11PM timeslot starting in June.
And of course movies continue as the meat of the network. FX has estimated the value of its movies at $600 million. "We are now, lock, stock the movie destination through 2014-2015," Lefkowitz said.