JULY 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.
In September 2010, 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 will join the line-up this fall.
JULY 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / July 2011 vs. July 2010 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
JULY 2011: Another strong month for FX, particularly in relation to the rest of the cable pack, as most networks lost core audience vs. last month, last year or both. On the all-important FX target of men 18-49, the net was able to hold last month's record audience while growing year over year ratings by 17%.
The return of RESCUE ME and the comedy line-up contributed to the cause, but it was movies that were the real muscle behind the push. Accounting for the vast majority of the primetime inventory, FX depends on its acquired movies to generate ratings. This month the theatricals did their job, with Iron Man, Taken and The Proposal grabbing big numbers. As seen on our programming page, FX continues to make acquired theatricals a major component of its programming strategy. As each blockbuster movie makes its premiere, FX snaps it up for its ever-expanding library.
Movies play an important supporting role to originals as well. Because the FX dramas run only at 10PM, movies always provide the lead-in, and can make a big difference in originals' ratings. FX has become adept at pairing movie content with its series. For instance, RESCUE ME was back for its final season with lead-in movie The Taking of Pelham 123.
RESCUE ME was not a ratings stand-out last year, but this summer it was able to capitalize on the ratings momentum of the network and grow men by 11% vs. last July's performance. Over its three-week run this July it was able to hold onto men, but dropped more women each week.
The comedy line-up on Thursday nights was clicking with men. Ratings grew 3% vs. last month and 26% vs. last year, but audience age grew as well, up 38% from last year. The older audience is a direct result of the two-hour TWO AND A HALF MEN block that runs from 8 to 10. That program has been doing well, with the publicity surrounding Charlie Sheen tying in nicely with FX's gritty image. WILFRED and LOUIE are each strong despite audience losses of about 20% from their premieres last month. WILFRED sits at the top of the men 18-49 program rankers. LOUIE delivered below the primetime average for men 18-49, but is performing well enough for FX programmers - both LOUIE and WILFRED received pick-ups for another season.
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
FX found its mojo this year. It is one of the few networks to experience consistent growth vs. both year ago and month ago on core demos. The network continues to develop new dramas and comedies, trying to push the envelope on every genres it touches. Network chief John Landgraf believes this fall's AMERICAN HORROR STORY will redefine the horror thriller. At a The Hollywood Radio and Television Society roundtable he called it "a potental break through commercial piece of television that's going to be imitated widely if people find it". In addition, he noted that the ever-expanding technological television landscape does not accommodate a complex, serialized drama such as DAMAGES on a cable network.
Live sports coverage is returning to the network with college football and soccer deals in place and latenight has been floated as a possibility.