FX happy with new series

'Bobcat,' 'Penn & Teller' get O.K. ratings

Cable web FX’s two new original series — “Bobcat’s Big Ass Show” and “Penn & Teller’s Sin City Spectacular” — haven’t been ratings home runs out of the gate, but network execs said that they’re happy with the shows’ performance.

FX increased its ratings by adding the off-network series “X-Files” and “NYPD Blue” to its lineup last summer, and this summer the channel is using these shows to build audiences for its originally produced series.

While off-network series often draw large ratings, basic cable networks need successful original shows to establish an image in the eyes of viewers and satisfy advertisers and cable system affiliates. Both favor quality original fare.

Since its premiere on July 1, “Bobcat’s Big Ass Show” has averaged 211,000 households. While that’s only a small fraction of the millions of households the broadcast networks draw, “Bobcat” is holding almost all of its lead-in, “In Living Color,” which has averaged 239,000 households.

FX uses its highest-rated show, “The X-Files,” to lead in to “Penn & Teller” on Mondays at 9 p.m.; not surprisingly, given that it’s an original series, “Penn & Teller” is losing a good chunk of its lead-in. The show repeats on Sundays at 10 p.m. and is performing better with its theatrical movie lead-in.

On Monday, Aug. 17, “Penn & Teller” drew 313,000 households following the “X-Files” lead-in of 564,000 households. On Monday, Aug. 24, “Penn & Teller” held onto a similar proportion of its “X-Files” lead-in, although both shows saw a slight ratings drop.

On Sunday, Aug. 16, the network’s Sunday night movie earned 329,000 households and “Penn & Teller” followed with 293,000 households. On Sunday, Aug. 23, the movie drew 313,000 households, and “Penn & Teller” bettered that figure with 398,000 households.

In FX’s 36 million-household universe, “Bobcat” has been averaging a 0.6 cable universe rating and “Penn & Teller” just under a 1.0 cable universe rating.

Because basic cable networks don’t have the promotional wherewithal of the broadcast networks, recent off-network series usually score higher ratings than original cable shows. The off-net series come pre-marketed and viewers are generally already familiar with them. As a result, Sousa said that he was quite happy with the initial numbers for “Bobcat” and “Penn & Teller.”

“We’re really pleased,” said Guy Sousa, executive VP of entertainment sales for FX. “There aren’t that many original cable shows that do a 1.0 rating. ‘Bobcat’ is doing the same rating as ‘In Living Color,” which was our highest-rated show last year.”

In addition, Sousa said that advertisers pay a premium to be in original series. The two new series have attracted advertisers that had previously not bought on FX.

“The beer companies don’t buy much entertainment programming, and we’ve had success with Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors,” said Sousa. “Rolling Rock took a major commitment in ‘Bobcat.'”

Sousa added that “Bobcat” has also been popular with several of the movie studios, especially Buena Vista, and MCI has become a major sponsor of “Penn & Teller.”

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