AUGUST 2011 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:
* Bold denotes programming change
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 joins the line-up this fall.
AUGUST 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / August 2011 vs. August 2010 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
AUGUST 2011: FX continues to pace ahead of last year’s performance, with average primetime men 18-49 ratings pulling 2% ahead of last year, and women 18-49 improving ratings by 10%. But the bar was set pretty low last summer. In fact, core men 18-49 audiences hit 2011’s low point this August, and the audience’s median age is the oldest for FX to date. Compared to last month, women 18-49 ratings are off by just 4%, but men 18-49 ratings are down 19%, with significant declines on every night of the week but Tuesdays.
FX does not air its best-rated or highest profile programming in the summertime. FX’s best-rated programs, JUSTIFIED and SONS OF ANARCHY air in the spring and fall. Last summer’s primetime was solely comprised of movies and RESCUE ME. This August, FX viewers were offered the final season of RESCUE ME, plus half hour comedies: off-net TWO AND A HALF MEN and FX originals WILFRED and LOUIE, In July FX’s audience tuned in regularly, but the same line-up in August chased away men, with every program losing sizable chunks of their men 18-49 ratings.
August’s originals RESCUE ME, WILFRED and LOUIE each hold a male skew. WILFRED remains the highest rated program among men, but lost 19% of them. LOUIE dropped 37% of its male audience from last month. RESCUE ME dropped 28% of men from last month and 14% of men from last year’s August run, while household and female audiences stayed the same size as last year. TWO AND A HALF MEN also took some big hits this month, losing an average of 20% of its men 18-49 audience.
Each of these losses was matched with a slightly smaller loss on women (with the exception of WILFRED). So what chased away the men? As usual, it is the movies that drive FX. The lineup was unusual for FX this month; there was not a comic book hero to be found. The best-rated movies of the month had strong female skews, led by Bride Wars. With strong female movies like Changeling, 13 Going on 30, Proposal, Definitely Maybe and Marley and Me, FX put forth a parade of movies that either had women turning on or men turning off. Nielsen’s MOVIE PRIME average (which does not include break-outs or movies falling outside of 8-11PM) shows FX gaining 7% more women vs. last month while losing 10% of men.
But not to worry. September is a strong month for the net, and this year brings the series finale of RESCUE ME, plus new seasons of IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, and testosterone-laden SONS OF ANARCHY. Hopefully a few comic book hero movies are in the line-up as well.
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
FX has been having a solid year, but hit a bump in the road this month. Despite the high-profile and strong ratings of its originals, the network’s fortunes rise and fall with its movie line-up. Dependence on movies will fade as off-net comedies (TWO AND A HALF MEN and HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER) take over more primetime territory. The return of live sports to the network should also change the game. Martial arts, college football and soccer deals are all in place to launch this broadcast year. Still, movie purchasing continues at a fast pace, as each blockbuster movie to hit theatres is quickly snapped up by FX.