MAY 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. Originals tend to run mid-week, Monday through Thursday, and always at 10PM for content reasons. This month we get just one drama on Tuesdays with JUSTIFIED.
While original series tend to grab the interest of both audiences and the press, FX essentially remains a movie network. At most, 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.
MAY 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / Mayl 2010 vs. May 2009 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
MAY 2010: FX rebounded from last month's poor performance, but it is still not up to the levels it was hitting last year, or first quarter of this year.
With DAMAGES gone from Monday nights, ratings jumped vs. last month - +26% among men 18-49 and +11% among women 18-49. Median age for the night dropped by 13%. No word yet on a renewal or a cancellation for the critically acclaimed, groundbreaking, Emmy winning low-rated drama.
The debut season of JUSTIFIED ended on June 8. After a strong opening in the first two weeks, audience settled down, but the program was still at the top of FX's ratings charts. The series was renewed back when six episodes were still left to air, and audience levels were slightly higher. Last May, RESCUE ME was running in the same Tuesday nights at 10PM time slot. Comparing the two, JUSTIFIED pulled in 39% better household ratings, 15% better men 18-49 ratings and 4% better women 18-49 ratings. The core audience for JUSTIFIED is definitely younger men.
The rest of the week was all theatricals. Exceptional performances were achieved on Thursday nights when The Waterboy and Superbad ran under the REEL FRESH umbrella. 27 Dresses ran a bunch of times (five times if you want to be technical) and hit strong women 18-49 numbers with each outing, even, inexplicably, after it followed the low-rated FOX spillover MLB post game show. It has the potential to be the next Mr. and Mrs. Smith for the network (that movie you can pull out of the war chest at will to give you a guaranteed audience bump).
Unexceptional performances on the weekends pulled down the whole ratings bottom-line, resulting in 15% losses for the month among the core 18-49 demos.
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
As JUSTIFIED ends its successful debut season, new dramas LIGHTS OUT and TERRIERS will join the schedule. These two new programs are leading the way to FX's new, more mainstream positioning.
In its Upfront presentation to advertisers, FX featured a slide placing all of its current and upcoming programming on a continuum, with its edgiest material (IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, SONS OF ANARCHY) towards the left side, and its more mainstream shows (LIGHTS OUT and TERRIERS) on the right, with the other shows in the middle. But network president John Landgraf is still touting the originality of FX's particular brand of programming. "If you watch most television, I think you're not going to be terribly surprised. I don't think most shows are likely going someplace you can't imagine they're going to go, but we're willing to take risks and take the audience someplace new. The type of viewer that enjoys that has very consistently come to FX and has been consistently rewarded."
Comedy is another growth area for FX, with ARCHER and THE LEAGUE successfully debuting in the 09/10 season. They have both been renewed. LOUIE is the newest comedy on the net, debuting in late June with its own brand of humor.
But that is just the beginning. The network has claimed it will have eight comedy series running. What are they looking for? "What we want to do with comedies is very much what we did with dramas," said Landgraf. "Put shows on the air that are really smart, really edgy and distinctive." With LOUIE, they gave Louis C.K. complete creative freedom to produce. According to The Boston Globe's interview, in a novel arrangement with FX, Louis C.K. is creating LOUIE without any input from the channel, which is owned by the Fox Entertainment Group. He is the writer, director, producer, editor, and star. Louis C.K. says he turned down bigger offers from bigger networks because autonomy is more precious than a fat paycheck. So far, the show has garnered critical acclaim, but with an 11PM timeslot, the going may be tough.