JANUARY 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. Originals tend to run mid-week, when they are running - Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, and always at 10PM for content reasons. This month we get drama on Mondays with DAMAGES and on Wednesdays with NIP/TUCK. Thursdays bring some animated comedy with ARCHER. Bigger movie titles are usually scheduled as lead-ins for high-profile originals.
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 three nights of originals are running. Original series help to set the conversation and the branding, not the bulk of the programming.
FX was never a network to run multiple encores of its series, a la BRAVO, and it has stopped running encores on Sunday nights, so each program gets just one primetime run. However, movie titles tend to run multiple times throughout the month and successful titles have become monthly staples (i.e. Mr. and Mrs. Smith, The Day After Tomorrow, The Devil Wears Prada).
JANUARY 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / January 2010 vs. January 2009 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
After a stellar December, FX lost some ground this January. This month's two "mature" series and half-hour comedy could not match the high-rated holiday movies and record-setting SONS OF ANARCHY finale of December. Average primetime ratings were down by double-digits vs. December for households and 18-49 demos. Compared to last January (which was also a strong month), men held, while women fell 11%. Although year ago and month ago comparisons are not in the positive figures, this January was one of the better FX ratings months. Median age is low and demo performance is near the top of FX's ratings spectrum.
At the end of the month DAMAGES returned for its third season. Compared to last January, numbers for the show are up 10% on households but down 20% or more on demo. Compared to the rest of January's movies, DAMAGES held its own on households, but underperformed on demo. Interestingly, the lead-in movie for DAMAGES (We Own The Night), was the lowest rated 8PM Monday movie of the month. DAMAGES typically skews female, yet the premiere night lead-in had a decided male skew. We have to wonder what the numbers would look like if a title like FX fave The Devil Wears Prada was the lead-in.
Wednesdays were NIP/TUCK night, and in its final season the program scored top ratings for the net. But like DAMAGES, the program is off its game vs. January 2009, down a crushing 47% on adult 18-49 ratings (which makes the month over month loss of 13% seem mild). Unlike DAMAGES, NIP/TUCK was able to build audience from its movie lead-ins.
Thursday nights brought the best news of the week. New comedy ARCHER ran at 10PM with a 10:30PM repeat each week. The lead-in for premiere night was the commercial television premiere of The Simpsons Movie, which also coincided with the actual 20th anniversary of THE SIMPSONS premiere on FOX. Then there was the obvious animated comedy symbiosis and the mutual young skewing demo appeal. Timing, content and demos -- now that's what we call a lead-in!!
The result was 1.2 million adult 18-49 viewers for the ARCHER premiere, which surpasses all other FX comedies but one. The folks at FX provided a handy chart to help compare the premieres of all their comedies:
Program (premiere month/year): AA (000) A18-49 / A18-34 /M18-34 P2+
ARCHER (1/10): 1,176 / 786 / 514 / 1,824
THE LEAGUE (10/09): 779 / 609 / 478 / 994
TESTEES (10/08): 700 / 559 / 361 / 976
SUNNY (8/05): 925 / 473 / 252 / 1,418
STARVED (8/05): 974 / 580 / 279 / 1,542
LUCKY (4/03): 1,732 / 771 / 531 / 2,500
SON OF THE BEACH: (3/00) 1,018 / 502 / 354 / 1,482
Of course audience drop-off after the premiere week was somewhat steep, but FX was pleased with the momentum of its comedy efforts this season, and has already renewed the series. In a move we applaud, FX ran a mini-marathon of ARCHER on February 25. We have encouraged FX to run multiple showings, marathons and / or encores of its primetime series to help catch new viewers.
The rest of the FX line-up (the other 85%, actually) was theatricals. Movies did well this month, with seven movie showings topping the best-rated household telecasts of the month. The Simpsons Movie, Superbad and XXX were the three best rated adult 18-49 telecasts of the month.
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
Lately, we have seen that when things are working at FX, they are really working. As original series grow their audience, movie audiences grow as well. With a theatrical feel to original programming, and a solid inventory of edgy movies, FX seems to have developed a symbiotic relationship to which audiences gravitate.
The network's expansion of the comedy genre has gained momentum, with THE LEAGUE and ARCHER each picking up renewals and SUNNY producing its best audiences ever. Next up for FX is the rollout of new dramas - JUSTIFIED, LIGHTS OUT and TERRIERS. With DAMAGES, NIP/TUCK and RESCUE ME all in their twilight years, the pressure is on.
So what does a program need to be an FX program? In a Broadcasting & Cable interview, John Landgraf says, "Audacity is a word we use a lot to describe our brand. He adds that FX also has a propensity for "alpha" characters, and the network aims to ride the balance between high-quality, broad entertainment and literary fare. I don't think you'll ever see an FX show on the air that's not about something; about a question worth examining on a literary level over a sustained number of years."