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 tone, but movies 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/October and January/February. FX blatantly bucks the cable trend of launching and showcasing marquee programming in the summertime and the holiday season.
There is a fair amount of regularity to FX's weekly schedule. Tuesdays and Wednesdays feature signature original dramas when they are running. Thursdays are home to original comedies and acquired sitcoms. Fridays host UFC Fight Championships and the biggest blockbuster titles are usually shown on Sundays.
OCTOBER 2012 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live + Same Day Primetime Ratings Comparison / October 2012 vs. October 2011 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
October 2012: A big month for FX as adult 18-49 primetime ratings climbed to their highest levels of the year, a bevy of new programming initiatives was announced and a handful of awards and accolades were earned. Although adult ratings hit its peak for the year to date, household and men 18-49 ratings were the same or better in July. The difference this month is younger audiences brought on by the absence of TWO AND A HALF MEN, and bigger female audiences, courtesy of AMERICAN HORROR STORY and more female skewing moves (particularly Twilight). This was all reflected in the numbers, and a distinct shift in audience composition emerged. Male/female skew for the month was basically even this year, whereas last year the split was 57/43. Still, there was a lot happening at FX this month, and most of it was good.
FX was in full original programming mode this October. Season 5 of SONS OF ANARCHY dominated the ratings charts again, with top numbers among all of cable, and many times topping most of the broadcast competition as well. Younger male comps were extraordinarily high, and for the most part FX programmers helped the cause with high-testosterone theatricals as lead-ns (Iron Man, Taken). In the fourth week of October female skewing Twilight : New Moon was the lead-in, yielding the highest female and the lowest male audiences of the month for SONS. Compared to last October when the program was in its fourth season, ratings are 20% better, across the board.
AMERICAN HORROR STORY was back for a second season in mid-October, airing on Wednesday nights. Coming in, the program had a lot of buzz (if not a lot of awards – 17 Emmy nominations, two awards), which no doubt helped boost ratings. FX detailed all of the ratings accomplishments in a press release:
"On a first-run basis, AHS: Asylum posted 2.78 million Adults 18-49 (2.20 rating), 1.78 million Adults 18-34 (2.63 rating), 1.62 million Women 18-49 (2.54 rating), 1.01 million Women 18-34 (2.97), 771,000 Men 18-34 (2.28 rating) and 3.85 million Total Viewers. The debut of American Horror Story: Asylum outpaced any single telecast of American Horror Story (10/5/11), and topped that miniseries' debut with increases of +37% in Adults 18-49; +50% in Adults 18-34; +49% in Women 18-49; +54% in Women 18-34; +44% in Men 18-34, and +21% in Total Viewers. American Horror Story: Asylum was the #1 program at 10 PM in Adults 18-34 by a landslide, beating Nashville (ABC) by +56% (1.78 million vs. 1.14 million); CSI (CBS) by +111% (1.78 million vs. 844,000); and Chicago Fire (NBC) by +133% (1.78 million vs. 763,000). It also was the runaway #1 program at 10 PM vs. broadcast in delivery of Women 18-34 outpacing ABC, CBS and NBC in that demo by +26%, +106%, and +112% respectively."
Network chief John Landgraf attributes the decision to make the show a new miniseries every year “as a stroke of genius.” No doubt, this all helped seal the deal of FX’s newly announced “mini” division. The net recruited a former HBO exec to oversee its move into original events and miniseries production.
Thursday night remains comedy night on FX, but with new players in place for October. A movie leads into IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA and LEAGUE. Latenight shows BRAND X WITH RUSSELL BRAND and TOTALLY BIASED WITH W KAMAU BELL follow. Interestingly, programmers didn’t dig into FX’ theatrical library for comedies as a lead-in to the night's comedy block, but chose an eclectic mix: The Social Network, Easy A and Zombieland. Ratings for the night are significantly better than last month when HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, TWO AND A HALF MEN, WILFRED and LOUIE were on the air, up 64% on adults 18-49. However, ratings are 24% below last year’s levels. Both SUNNY and LEAGUE are off by double digits vs. October 2011.
And last but not least on the schedule, the Ultimate Fighter series gave a boost to underperforming Friday and Saturday nights, spiking the male numbers in particular, and giving movies a rest.
The ratings successes of FX were matched with a slew of programming announcements. In addition to the new division devoted to miniseries, a full docket of originals is in the works, both comedies and dramas, most of which appear to be staying true to the edgy FX brand.
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