Do TV viewers need twice as much FX?
The cabler has long been a standout, thanks to edgy, no-holds-barred programs like “Sons of Anarchy” and “Rescue Me” that give their producers tons of creative freedom and their audiences a set of hardcharging protagonists.
(From the pages of the April 2 issue of Variety.)
Now News Corp. wants to bolster its flagship general entertainment cabler by committing a form of cell division. The hope is that by spinning off a new network, FXX, the conglom can extend the company’s reach into the younger part of the demographic most coveted by advertisers (and, let’s be honest, give it more heft when it comes time to negotiate carriage fees with the nation’s big cable and satellite companies).
The new channel aims to reach more deeply into audiences between the ages of 18 and 34, leaving its older sibling, FX, to better define itself by going after 18 to 49ers. FXM, a third network devoted to movies and — coming soon — some limited-run series, will skew a bit older, hoping to lure viewers between 25 and 54.
The plan is to offer a “suite” of three networks — also counting the existing FX Movies (FXM) channel — in order to cajole advertisers to spend more with News Corp. By having three different outlets, said John Landgraf, president and general manager of FX Networks, the company can continue to offer a broader variety of high-quality programming without having to hew too closely to a particular genre, and can go wide “without falling into the all-things-to-allpeople pitfall that plagues broadcast.”
FXX will bow Sept. 2 on the channel that is now home to Fox Soccer, which already boasts a subscriber base of 74 million homes. FX brass unveiled the launch of FXX and a slew of programming news at its March 28 upfront, highlighted by a helmers Joel and Ethan Coen onboard as executive producers.
Limited series are also in development, including “Mayflower,” a look at the Puritans who came to settle America, which will feature Paul Giamatti. That project is expected to go to FXM, as a longterm plan calls for that channel to also carry original series and longform fare in addition to feature films. Landgraf noted that the FX Networks enterprise is “embarking on an incredibly ambitious ramp-up of program development and production required to sustain these networks.”
And FX isn’t insisting its programs be watched in traditional fashion. Execs vowed to make new episodes available for video-on-demand and some streaming the day after they air. The ability to fast-forward through ads will be disabled, but the company hopes to generate more views by acknowledging that some viewers will want to watch decidedly nontraditional shows in decidedly nontraditional fashion.