Fox Doubling Down on FX in Bet on Cable Nets

Fox Networks is planning to split its successful FX channel
into two networks as part of a larger effort to enlarge its cable footprint.

A new network, tentatively called FXX, would target younger
viewers -- millennials -- with a skew towards comedy, according to media
executives who have been briefed on the plans.

The network would program some of the original comedy series
that now appear on FX, such as The League
and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
It would also be stocked with appropriate theatrical movies from a stockpile FX
has been building in deals with nearly all of the major studios over the past
few years.

The plans call for a launch in September with about 75
million subscribers. Many of those subscribers would come from the Fox Soccer
channel, according to a report in the Los
Angeles Times

After the split, FX would continue to air the edgy dramas
such as Sons of Anarchy and Justified that attract young adults and
baby boomers. FX Networks, headed by John Landgraf, will also continue to
produce the movie channel FXM.

A Fox spokesman declined to comment on details, saying only
that the company is always examining its programming options.

By giving the entertainment networks different focuses, they
might avoid cannibalizing each other's viewership and competing for
programming. Splitting a network portfolio along drama/comedy lines has long
been done by Turner Broadcasting, with TNT, which features drama, and its "very
funny" TBS. AMC Networks is following a similar strategy by having IFC focus on
quirky comedies while its develops dramas for Sundance Channel.

Cable has been a major profit driver for News Corp., which
is in the process of dividing itself into two public companies controlled by
Rupert Murdoch. One company, the new News Corp., will mainly own the company's
publishing assets. The other, Fox Group, would be in the TV and movie business,
headed by Chase Carey, a big believer in the power of both cable and sports.

Fox is also in the process of creating a national sports
cable network that would compete with ESPN, which commands high ratings and
higher subscriber fees thanks to its licenses to carry professional football,
baseball and basketball, as well as college football.

The network, expected to be called Fox Sports 1, will be
built on what is now the racing driven channel Speed. There is also talk that
the company's Fuel channel, now gaining muscle from its UFC programming, could
become Fox Sports 2.

Of course, all of the changes are subject to agreements with
distributors, which can opt to drop channels if the deviate from the way they
are defined in their carriage agreements.

Executives from cable distributors such as Time Warner Cable
and Dish Network have talked about dropping channels rather than adding them as
the cost of programming rises. That could make achieving carriage more
difficult for new networks or mean that less lucrative deals are coming down
the pike.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.