Series renewed for two seasons

Damages” has escaped the cancellation ax in a deal that puts DirecTV squarely in the original series business.

The Sony Pictures TV series that ran for three seasons on FX is moving to DirecTV’s 101 Network. The satcaster, which has gradually been increasing the volume of the original programming on the 101 Network, has ordered two 10-episode seasons. The fourth season of “Damages” will bow next summer on 101, with the fifth season launching in summer 2012.

Series stars Glenn Close and Rose Byrne have been confirmed to return, with other thesps set to sign on soon. Each had originally signed six-year deals before the show first went on the air.

DirecTV signaled its intent to compete in original programming two years ago when it cut a deal with NBC to help finance another critically acclaimed drama series, “Friday Night Lights,” in exchange for the right to air the episodes months before the Peacock. In the case of “Damages,” there will be no shared window; DirecTV will be the sole outlet for the show.

“Damages,” co-produced by Sony and FX Prods., has long been a critical darling but never was a strong draw with viewers.

Ratings for the legal thriller had been mostly disappointing since the show’s launch on FX in 2007. But given the show’s small but ardent following, and its status as a kudos magnet — Close has won the lead drama actress two years in a row — Sony made it a priority to work out a deal with the satcaster to keep “Damages” alive.

While DirecTV wouldn’t disclose what license fee it paid for the show, 101 Network g.m. Patty Ishimoto told Daily Variety it was worth the healthy investment.

“What was important to us was that this is such a critically acclaimed series that we really felt it was the right show,” she said. “What was most interesting to us is that we’re the exclusive broadcaster, and that makes it much less confusing for viewers. This is the only place where you can see new episodes. It was worth our while to make it work.”

Todd A. Kessler, “Damages” co-creator and exec producer, said the creative team is excited by the chance to produce longer episodes for the commercial-free environment of DirecTV.

“They’re encouraging us to push the envelope with language, violence and sex, and all of those things we couldn’t do on FX. It’s very exciting,” Kessler said. “There are no creative handcuffs.”

Kessler, who co-created the show with fellow exec producers Glenn Kessler and Daniel Zelman, said they hope “Damages” will be able to reach new viewers who weren’t even aware of the show during its FX run.

“We were led to believe that audience awareness was historically low when the show was on FX,” said exec producer Todd A. Kessler. “We completely understand why it’s not returning to FX and are appreciative for the three years there. DirecTV believes so strongly in the show. We think there is an audience who hasn’t watched it.”

DirecTV has long tried to add heft to the programming slate on the 101 Network, as evidenced by the “Friday Night Lights” deal and its licensing of critical faves such as HBO’s “The Wire,” which just began airing last weekend. But the “Damages” deal takes 101 to a new level in its effort to become a viable outlet for program producers.

Ishimoto said a two-season deal was preferable as DirecTV didn’t want to get caught in a situation where it signed on with Sony for only one season and then had to renegotiate with both the studio and hope the actors were available.

“We said if we’re going to do it, then let’s do it right,” she said. “We didn’t want to do one season, have it work and then not be in a position to do another.”

As part of the deal, DirecTV will have the rights to reruns from the first three “Damages” seasons.

“Damages” averaged 1.3 million viewers in season three, down 46% from season one and off about 62% in the 18-49 demo. For the season-three finale in April, fewer than a million viewers tuned in.

The loss of “Damages” shouldn’t hurt FX, which has seen success lately with dramas “Sons of Anarchy” and “Justified.” Net is about to launch another pair — the Shawn Ryan-created “Terriers” and “Lights Out” — during the next few months.

For the first time, however, FX Prods. will produce a show that won’t run on FX. But the cabler said the exclusive move to DirecTV was the best situation available, and was willing to accept it.

“FX was very proud to have developed one of the best scripted series on television, but in order to have a future, the show needed DirecTV, and we are thrilled they stepped in,” said FX president-g.m. John Landgraf, who also heads FX Prods.

Last week Close was Emmy-nommed again for her role as manipulative attorney Patty Hewes. Besides Close, four other “Damages” thesps were nominated this year: Byrne and Martin Short for supporting, while Ted Danson and Lily Tomlin were tabbed for their guest spots.to return, with other thesps set to sign on soon. Each had signed six-year deals before the show first went on the air.

DirecTV signaled its intent to compete in original programming two years ago when it cut a deal with NBC to help finance another critically acclaimed drama series, “Friday Night Lights,” in exchange for the right to air the episodes months before the Peacock. In the case of “Damages,” there will be no shared window; DirecTV will be the sole outlet.

“Damages,” co-produced by Sony and FX Prods., has long been a critical darling but never was a strong draw with viewers. Ratings for the legal thriller had been mostly disappointing since the show’s launch on FX in 2007. But given the show’s small but ardent following, and its status as a kudos magnet — Close has won the lead drama actress Emmy two years in a row — Sony made it a priority to work out a deal with the satcaster to keep “Damages” alive.

While DirecTV wouldn’t disclose what license fee it paid for the show, 101 Network g.m. Patty Ishimoto said it was worth it.

“What was important to us was that this is such a critically acclaimed series that we really felt it was the right show,” she said. “What was most interesting to us is that we’re the exclusive broadcaster, and that makes it much less confusing for viewers. This is the only place where you can see new episodes. It was worth our while to make it work.”

Todd A. Kessler, “Damages” co-creator and exec producer, said the creative team is excited by the chance to produce longer episodes for the commercial-free environment of DirecTV.

“They’re encouraging us to push the envelope with language, violence and sex, and all of those things we couldn’t do on FX. It’s very exciting,” Kessler said. “There are no creative handcuffs.”

Kessler, who created the show with fellow exec producers Glenn Kessler and Daniel Zelman, said they hope “Damages” will be able to reach viewers who weren’t aware of the show during its FX run.

“We were led to believe that audience awareness was historically low when the show was on FX,” he said. “We completely understand why it’s not returning to FX and are appreciative for the three years there. DirecTV believes so strongly in the show. We think there is an audience who hasn’t watched it.”

DirecTV has long tried to add heft to the programming slate on the 101 Network, as evidenced by the “Friday Night Lights” deal and its licensing of critical faves such as HBO’s “The Wire,” which just began airing last weekend. But the “Damages” deal takes 101 to a new level in its effort to become a viable outlet for program producers.

Ishimoto said a two-season deal was preferable as DirecTV didn’t want to get caught in a situation where it signed on with Sony for one season and then had to renegotiate with the studio and hope the actors were available.

“We said if we’re going to do it, then let’s do it right,” she said. “We didn’t want to do one season, have it work and then not be in a position to do another.”

As part of the deal, DirecTV will have the rights to reruns from the first three “Damages” seasons.

“Damages” averaged 1.3 million viewers in season three, dow
n 46% from season one and off about 62% in the 18-49 demo. For the season-three finale in April, fewer than a million viewers tuned in.

The loss of “Damages” shouldn’t hurt FX, which has seen success lately with dramas “Sons of Anarchy” and “Justified.” Net is about to launch another pair — the Shawn Ryan-created “Terriers” and “Lights Out” — during the next few months.

For the first time, however, FX Prods. will produce a show that won’t run on FX. But the cabler said the exclusive move to DirecTV was the best situation available, and was willing to accept it.

“FX was very proud to have developed one of the best scripted series on television, but in order to have a future, the show needed DirecTV, and we are thrilled they stepped in,” said president-g.m. John Landgraf, who also heads FX Prods.

Last week Close was Emmy-nommed again for her role as manipulative attorney Patty Hewes. Also nommed were: Byrne and Martin Short for supporting, while Ted Danson and Lily Tomlin were tabbed for their guest spots.

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