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FX Analysis - September 2011


* 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. Original series help to set the conversation and the branding, but movies still 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 and January. FX blatantly bucks the cable trend of launching and showcasing marquee programming in the summertime, typically running just one or two hours of originals over the course of the summer.

When originals are on the air they tend to run mid-week, Monday through Thursday, and always at 10PM for content reasons. However, the door has been opened to moving a drama such as JUSTIFIED to the 9PM slot, thereby creating a companion programming strategy for dramas.

Last year FX added TWO AND A HALF MEN to the primetime line-up; the first time an acquired off-net comedy ran in primetime in a few years (THAT ˜70s SHOW was once a Friday night staple). The program is not used as a strip, but acts a two-hour comedy block on Thursdays and Saturdays. TWO AND A HALF MEN also runs in daytime / early fringe along with some other acquired sitcoms (MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE, THE BERNIE MAC SHOW). The program met with success, and HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER joined the line-up this fall.


Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / September 2011 vs. September 2010  (% Change)

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

SEPTEMBER 2011:  September is a big month for FX; it likes to jump into the premiere season fray a couple of weeks ahead of the broadcast nets. This September was no exception, with new seasons of comedies and dramas, an off-net sitcom, College Football plus a new hit series on the horizon. In the end, FX posted a strong month -- hitting some new heights, and up on core men 18-49 by 19% vs. last year and 37% from last month. Women ratings also improved, but young men are still the bread and butter at FX.

Starting out the week, Mondays remained somewhat unexceptional. Even blockbuster theatricals a la The Incredible Hulk didn’t pop the numbers very much. The highlight was a Labor Day marathon of HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, which pulled great comps on younger men, a good sign for the series. On the 9th the series was put in place on Friday nights from 8 to 9, leading into a movie. Given that it is airing on the lowest viewed night of the week on its core demo, the show is holding its own. Anything that decreases FX reliance on its theatricals is a good thing.

Tuesdays were the banner night as SONS OF ANARCHY launched its fourth season. The program broke records with the premiere, becoming 2011’s highest rated basic cable drama series telecast on adults 19-49 and FX’s best-rated telecast ever (according to FX’s take on the +7 numbers). The following two telecasts dropped in ratings, but the three top rated telecasts of the month were the three telecasts of SONS OF ANARCHY. Also of note, the program’s core audience is undoubtedly men 18-49, and it is the net’s top rated program for women too. While men grew 23% vs. last year’s performance, women grew by 38%.

On Wednesdays, RESCUE ME was the highlight as the series ended its acclaimed and groundbreaking run just a few days shy of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  The program hit highs it hadn’t reached in four years, and according to FX, this final seventh season averaged 1.5 million total viewers, up 10% over season six and up 3% over season five.

Thursdays is comedy night, with TWO AND A HALF MEN leading into an hour of comedy. WILFRED and LOUIE ran the first half of the month, performing about the same as they did last month. The second half of the month brought IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, which is back with another season. Compared to last September, the dark comedy is delivering the same amount of men and 12% more women. ARCHER followed at 10:30. Both SUNNY and ARCHER improved upon the night.

September marks the one year anniversary of TWO AND A HALF MEN on FX. Since last year the program has gained 24% better men 18-49 ratings, undoubtedly helped by its enormous share of publicity.

College football joined the line-up this September, replacing TWO AND A HALF MEN on three Saturday nights. Two of the match-ups underperformed TWO AND A HALF MEN, but the third game, Missouri at Oklahoma was a charm, and pulled in top tier numbers.

Movies were strong again this month with the welcome return of the super heroes – X-Men, Iron Man and Taken were the top performing titles.