With 'The Wire' on the way, satcaster may not have room at the inn

With ratings that have taken a major hit, don’t expect “Damages” to return to FX next season. Or anywhere else.

Despite a meeting in the next two weeks between Sony Pictures Television and DirecTV to discuss the possibility of the Glenn Close skein changing networks, insiders say it doesn’t look as though the drama is a good fit for the satellite provider.

Monday’s announcement by DirecTV that HBO’s critically acclaimed drama “The Wire” is arriving in July indicates that the satcaster is continuing its mostly male-skewing lineup. Series on the air, or having just concluded, include “Oz,” “Deadwood,” “Brotherhood,” “Friday Night Lights” and Australian drama “Underbelly.”

Sony, of course, wants to see “Damages” continue, but the studio would have to take a substantial license-fee reduction. With what would be the fourth year of the show, and cast and crew expecting salary increases, it would likely be difficult — though not impossible — to cut costs.

If an arrangement could be made to continue “Damages,” DirecTV would want to air original episodes first, and FX might have issues with that arrangement, according to sources. FX Prods. is co-producer of the series.

For all the success FX is having with its dramas — Tim Olyphant starrer “Justified” is off to a solid start, and “Sons of Anarchy” is coming off a socko second season — “Damages” has always been ratings-challenged.

The season-three premiere in January drew only 1.4 million viewers, down 17% from season two’s debut. In the 18-49 demo, numbers were even more disheartening, tumbling 41% to 428,000 from 718,000 on Jan. 7, 2009.

So far this season with one episode remaining, “Damages” is averaging 1.3 million total viewers (down 46% from season one) and 431,000 in the demo (off a hefty 62%). Those numbers could rise, however, when live-plus-7 is factored in.

FX showed plenty of faith in “Damages” in 2007 when it renewed the series for two seasons at the end of season one, but ratings-wise it hasn’t paid off.

Given the right project, DirecTV might be willing to start its own original series rather than acquiring one from somewhere else, which so far has been the main focus of its business strategy. However, the series would have to have a marketable name — either an author, cast member or exec producer — in order to lure subscribers away from cable and other satellite competitors.

As for “The Wire,” DirecTV bought the show from HBO, which bought it back from BET. DirecTV will offer all five seasons of the series beginning with a July 18 preem. The skein, which was ignored by the Emmys but often touted by critics, examines the city of Baltimore, and how the drug trade and budget cuts affect its infrastructure — from government and police to schools and media.

Series comes from former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon, who is showrunner on HBO’s New Orleans saga “Treme,” which launched Sunday night.

“The Wire” debuted in 2002, and stars, among others, Dominic West, Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters. Simon, Robert F. Colesberry and Nina Kostroff Noble exec produce.

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