FEBRUARY 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 drama on Mondays with DAMAGES and on Wednesdays with NIP/TUCK. Tuesdays host new drama JUSTIFIED and 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 multiple 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 primetime 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).
MARCH 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / March 2010 vs. March 2009 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
MARCH was a busy month at FX, with the premiere of JUSTIFIED, the series finale of NIP/TUCK and new seasons of both DAMAGES and ARCHER underway. The affect of all this on the bottom line ratings? Not much - total primetime year to year and month to month numbers were flat to slightly up. In the big ratings picture, FX put in a mediocre performance, with viewing levels below last year's average and median age edging up. But as far as talking pints and bragging rights, FX had a great month.
DAMAGES led Monday nights to a 17% core ratings decline vs. last year. FX fed it great lead-in titles (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Double Jeopardy), but DAMAGES consistently lost more than half the movie audience. It also drew the oldest comps on the FX line-up. But it led the network to another Emmy nomination for Glenn Close (she has already won back to back awards). There is no word on whether the show will be renewed or not, but there are rumors that if cancelled it could become a feature film. Now there's a talking point.
On Tuesday, March 16 JUSTIFIED, based on the Elmore Leonard novel Fire In The Hole, joined the FX line-up. With their male-skewing, edgy auras, Leonard and FX are a perfect pairing, and JUSTIFIED reaped the ratings benefits. JUSTIFIED got off to a great start Tuesday 3/16/10, as the series premiere episode posted over 4 million total viewers and 2 million adults 18-49. JUSTIFIED recorded 1.42 million men 18-49, which was the second-highest delivery in that demo ever for a scripted series premiere on basic cable, behind FX's THE SHIELD (according to FX). For comparison, the folks at FX provided the delivery of their all-time top five series premieres
Total Viewers (000) / Adults 18-49 / Men 18-49
#1) THE SHIELD (3/12/02): 4,827 / 3,037 / 1,739
#2) JUSTIFIED (3/16/10): 4,158 / (3/12/07) 2,042 / 1,421
#3) RESCUE ME (7/21/04); 4,071 / 2,516 / 1,341
#4) OVER THERE (7/27/05): 4,062 / 2,385 / 1,325
#5) DIRT (1/2/07): 3,744 / 2,362 THE RICHES 1,309
BTW - JUSTIFIED lost 20% of its men 18-49 in the second week.
And just as a new series takes hold, one of the network's signature series took its last bow. NIP/TUCK's series finale was on the first Wednesday in March. The finale improved performance over last month's effort by over 25%, but it underdelivered last year by 30%.
On Thursdays ARCHER finished its run on a strong note. Men 18-49 ratings were up by 21% vs. last month, although they are still not as strong as they were in January. The new episode that airs each week at 10 consistently beats the lead-in movie among men. Like JUSTIFIED, the program has a strong male skew -- 66%. (JUSTIFIED pulled a 68% male skew for its first two telecasts).
With original programming limited to 10PM on weekdays, movies are still the dominant force on FX. The network has worked hard at acquiring a library of movies that fits into that edgy male genre FX likes to project. Among the top rated men 18-49 telecasts of March, were the two eps of JUSTIFIED at numbers one and two, NIP/TUCK at number eight and ARCHER at number eleven. The rest were movies -- Hitman, Live Free or Die, The Punisher, The Italian Job, Superbad, Transporter -all fitting neatly into that niche. And all working well to cross-promote edgy male original series.
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
After taking a long break, FX invested a lot into original programming last year. The new programs are rolling out, and the investment seems to be paying off. After a shaky February, JUSTIFIED had a strong debut in March. Next up is the rollout of new dramas LIGHTS OUT and TERRIERS. With DAMAGES, NIP/TUCK and RESCUE ME all in their twilight, the pressure is on.
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.
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."