FX takes on edgy theme as ‘rebel with a cause’

New marketing ploy working as intended

NEW YORK — FX has outgrown last year’s “FOX Gone Cable” theme to emerge as an entity that no longer needs explanation — at least not to those who get the cabler’s edgy offerings and its new “Please Watch Responsibly” theme.

“It’s not a media warning,” Gavin Harvey, FX’s senior VP of marketing and promotion, said Tuesday of the theme adopted by the 4-year-old network. “It’s presented in the spirit of irony, and raw research is showing that’s exactly how our target audience is taking it.”

The branding and research effort does indeed stand out even in this era of, as Harvey put it, “brand yourself or die.”

The effort began with the cabler retaining New York agency nickandpaul for a brand audit, which revealed that FX’s core audience really does consider the channel “a rebel with a cause.”

“The whole idea,” nickandpaul co-founder Nick Shore said of the exercise leading to the rebel insight, “is to get to a point where, if a TV entity walked into the room, you’d know exactly what it looked like.”

Names say it all

That’s a lot easier for such niche cablers as the Golf Channel, The Weather Channel and the Food Channel, where the positioning, as noted by FX marketing exec Harvey, “is right there in the title.”

Getting out of a niche has its own rewards, however, such as FX’s 62% jump in primetime viewership among the 18-49 set over the past year.

The balancing act is to go broad with programming choices while keeping as narrow as possible the audience’s most salable demographics. After all, from the viewer’s perspective, the corollary to “Please Watch Responsibly” is “Please Program Carefully.”

FX hopes to extend last year’s performance, which was goosed by such primetime offerings as “The X-Files” and “NYPD Blue,” by supplementing its sexy syndication mainstays like “90210” with original programming like “Penn & Teller’s Sin City Spectacular,” “Instant Comedy With the Groundlings” and “Bobcat’s Big Ass Show.”

“We’re really in an aggressive period of developing original programming,” Harvey explained, citing cable’s still-great potential and untapped opportunities.

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