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FX Scores With Early VOD Returns

FX, which received promising early returns from three series this fall, is poised to expand its video-on-demand offerings with Comcast, making Nip/Tuck and Damages installments available on the platform this month.

At the same time, the network continues to negotiate with other operators about adding on-demand series and some theatrical content. FX vice president of advanced services Will Flannery expects to complete deals with other carriers that will make network fare accessible on a VOD basis to some 20 million homes in the first quarter.

With its debut on Comcast, FX became the latest of cable’s top programmers -- joining the likes of HBO, Showtime, TNT and NBCU’s USA Network and Sci Fi -- to provide original scripted series fare to the on-demand platform.

Launched on Comcast systems in September, FX VOD and FX HD VOD, which include a limited commercial load, drew a combined 10 million views for episodes of the fourth season of comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and the rookie campaigns of Testees and motorcycle drama Sons of Anarchy, according to network officials citing Rentrak data.

Although he didn’t break down the numbers specifically, Flannery said the biggest surprise stemmed from the usage patterns showing that It’s Always Sunny “was just about the same” as Anarchy.

The latter averaged 2.6 million viewers with its premiere installments on FX during its first season, according to Nielsen Media Research data, compared with almost 1.6 million watchers for the first runs of Sunny’s fourth campaign.

FX was “very pleased” with the series’ collective three-month VOD numbers, but especially encouraged by indicators showing that nearly 95% of the views were for the entire episodes.

“[Fox Cable] has had other shows where viewers watched the full episodes, but nowhere near the consistency of the FX shows,” said Flannery.

Another key takeaway: the shows over-indexed among households with HD VOD.

Flannery said FX had not yet done a market-by-market analysis of whether the VOD usage had prompted increases in linear viewing for the series.

Comcast did not comment for this article.

Next up: VOD availability of the concluding arc of the fifth season of plastic surgeon series Nip/Tuck and the 22-installment second season of the Emmy Award-winning, Glenn Close-starrer Damages. The shows premiere on FX at 10 p.m. on Jan. 6 and Jan. 7, respectively, and will be accessible on VOD shortly thereafter their linear debuts.

Jamia Bigalow, vice president of affiliate sales and marketing, said FX, which backed its VOD rollout this fall with banners on I-Guide that took users to informational elements about the service, has rolled up an aggressive campaign behind Nip/Tuck and Damages. 

Recap content of the most recent seasons are available on both the VOD and HD VOD platforms, flanked by co-branded materials on Comcast’s barker channel and Additionally, the operator’s subscribers have received direct-mail pieces touting the on-demand programming.

Customized FX VOD and FX VOD HD spots, featuring messages from Close, who won the Emmy for best actress for her portrayal of high-stakes litigator Patty Hewes, are in Comcast’s cross-channel rotation.