JULY 2010 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. When originals are on the air they tend to run mid-week, Monday through Thursday, and always at 10PM for content reasons.
Most cable networks heavy-up on original signature series in the less competitive summer months, but FX tends to run just one or two originals each month, year-round, including summertime. This July, as was the case last July, RESCUE ME is the sole original on the schedule.
Although its original series tend to grab the interest of both audiences and the press, FX essentially remains a movie network. At best, the primetime schedule is 90% 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 or the ratings.
JULY 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / July 2010 vs. July 2009 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
July 2010: FX recovered from last month's poor performance, boosting bottom-line Monday - Sunday adult 18-49 ratings by 14%. However, things were exactly the opposite vs. last year, with a 14% decline in adult 18-49 ratings.
FX's programming motto for July could have been "more of the same." The top rated telecast this month was a Sunday night showing of The Waterboy. The top rated movie in June was a Sunday night showing of The Waterboy. The top rated movie in May was...The Waterboy. The next highest rated movie this month was FX classic, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, which always makes an appearance on the network and at the top of the ratings charts when Angelina releases another movie. (Adding to the Angelina franchise, FX snapped up rights to Salt soon after it premiered in theatres.)
The only original on the air again this month was original drama RESCUE ME. RESCUE ME launched the first half of its final season on Tuesday, June 29. Compared to last July's performance, when the show was in the middle of the season, ratings are up 10% on households, 2% on adults 18-49 and 9% on adults 25-54. But there are some signs of trouble ahead. The best growth comes from women, although men remain the larger audience. The program has aged, as the 25-54 year olds pull in bigger ratings than the 18-49s. And, RESUCE ME lost audience each week since its premiere.
RESCUE ME faces a lonely season. Without new movie releases or other originals to help cross-promote it, there is nothing out there to give the program the boost it needs. Network heads at FX have lamented their DVR curse, as they estimate that more than 25% of audience to originals watches on a delayed time frame. Exacerbating the issue, the competition on Tuesday nights from other cable networks has stepped up, most notably USA's COVERT AFFAIRS and TNT's MEMPHIS BEAT.
But FX is still very much in the originals game. In a July 19 Broadcasting and Cable article, network president John Landgraf admitted that FX "doesn't even come close to break-even" with its originals, but original programming helps other facets of the channel's business. "I'm not sure what FX's identity would be if it didn't have any original programming,"
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
FX has aggressive plans for the new broadcast year. Blockbuster theatricals carry the network through the summer, but FX comes out swinging in September with four originals set to premiere.
Comedies are the new growth area at FX, with a lot of success under its belt from the 09/10 season. Each of its comedies from the past 12 months - LOUIE, THE LEAGUE, and ARCHER were picked up for a second season. The network is on record that they plan to carry six to eight comedies in the future, and that a dozen originals in total would be their max. That means comedies will be at least half of the originals line-up.
What are they looking for in comedy? "What we want to do with comedies is very much what we did with dramas," said John Landgraf, FX President. "Put shows on the air that are really smart, really edgy and distinctive." Good writing that helps showcase the star of the program is also key to the originals brand on FX.