FX president says DVR usage hurts show

FX president John Landgraf applauds the TV Academy for choosing “Damages” as an Emmy nominee, but he’d probably be happier if Nielsen noticed, too.

At Friday morning’s Television Critics Assn. panel, Landgraf said he was distressed by the ratings for the second season of the Glenn Close drama, but understands those numbers are low because many people watch episodes in chunks of time on DVRs and DVDs, rather than week to week in the Wednesday timeslot.

“I was plainly disappointed with the ratings,” he said. “You can’t watch five out of 13 episodes. You’re in or you’re out. A lot of people play catch-up with that show and Nielsen doesn’t even acknowledge it if you watch after seven days.

“I think that type of programming doesn’t particularly suit the current programming environment and lifestyle of most people. I think they’re more interested in dating than marriage when it come to shows. It’s both exciting and also disconcerting that after a show like ‘Damages’ comes on the air, we keep hearing for the rest of the year, ‘I finally caught up with it,’ or ‘I bought the DVD, and I watched it.’ We got zero credit for that whatsoever from Nielsen or from any advertisers.”

Meanwhile Landgraf announced FX might extend next season’s episode order for “Rescue Me.” Current deal has 18 episodes set for next season but that could be increased. Firehouse skein starring Denis Leary is in the middle of a 22-episode season and will launch the next season in spring or summer next year.

With “The Shield” off the air and “Nip/Tuck” beginning its final season, FX is ramping up production and, by the end of August, could have three comedies greenlit for series. Laffers have often eluded the basic cabler and Landgraf is making it a priority.

FX’s push into comedy includes the recently shot pilot “Louie,” starring Louis C.K, who starred in “Lucky Louie” on HBO in 2006. It has greenlit the animated “Archer,” which will begin in the fall; also in contention for a series order is “The League,” about how fantasy football takes over players’ lives, from Jeff Schaffer (“Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and Jackie Marcus Schaffer.

As far as making comedies that will register with auds, Landgraf said: “We feel like we know how to do it and know exactly who we are. We know how to brand for our comedy. We’re extremely optimistic.”

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” which begins its 12-episode fifth season Sept. 17, has been FX’s most noteworthy comedy, especially among a college-age demo. Net’s most recent effort, “Testees,” was canceled after one season. In 2005, “Starved” –a comedy about eating disorders — received similar ratings to “Sunny” but wasn’t picked up for a second season.

In addition to bringing new laffers to the slate, Landgraf sees an opening for drama titles that he hopes will have extended runs.

“Lawman,” based on Elmore Leonard stories, stars Timothy Olyphant (“Deadwood”) as a U.S. Marshal who must return to his Kentucky home after spending time in Miami. It is tentatively set to launch in March. Graham Yost (“Boomtown”) exec produces.

Also, the drama pilot “Lights Out,” with “In Treatment” exec producer Warren Leight coming aboard, is waiting on a season order. The program is about a heavyweight boxer who comes to terms with his life out of the ring.

In other FX-related news, the hourlong dramedy “Terriers,” with Shawn Ryan “(The Shield”) and Ted Griffin (‘Ocean’s Eleven”) exec producing, has begun production. Donal Logue and Michael Raymond James star. Clark Johnson directed the pilot.

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