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FX looks to be more TNT/TBS/USA and less HBO

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not to shine on them, i think some of these channels are slowly stepping it up, but im still not excited by this direction. The Shield, Rescue Me, Sunny, and (im told) Nip/Tuck are some of the greats.


Upfronts 2010: FX Eyeing Broader Reach

Network positions itself against USA, Turner networks in upfront pitch


By Alex Weprin -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/7/2010 11:19:37 AM


FX, which built its brand on edgy programs with complex, dark protagonists like The Shield and Nip/Tuck, is changing gears and moving more mainstream in a bid to add viewers and advertisers.


In its upfront pitch to agencies over the next few weeks, the cable network is positioning itself against cable leaders TNT, TBS and USA.


"The landscape has changed a great deal since The Shield launched," said Bruce Lefkowitz, executive VP of Fox Cable ad sales. "That was when we were really clamoring for attention, looking to break through."


In the presentation, the network will present a slide featuring all of its current and upcoming programming on a continuum, with its edgiest material (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Sons of Anarchy) towards the left side, and some of its more mainstream shows (the upcoming Terriers and Lights Out) on the right, with the other shows spread between them.


"I think it is important to talk about the originals in basic cable as a continuum, from the edgy, adult side of it, which we cornered the market with The Shield and Nip/Tuck, to the other end of the spectrum, which would include The Closer or White Collar," Lefkowitz said. "We are never going to be all the way to the right side, we are never going to do The Closer, because that is not what audiences come to FX for, but we have earned the right to move a little bit more to the right."


FX has three new shows on tap for this year: comedy Louie, starring comedian Louis C.K., drama Lights Out, about a washed up boxer and Terriers, which is from The Shield's Shawn Ryan and follows two private investigators.


The channel premiered another new series, Justified, in March, which FX president John Landgraf says was the network's highest rated premiere ever when DVR numbers are factored in. Preliminary numbers had it second only to The Shield among FX series premieres.


Acquisitions, both theatrical and off-network are also key to the network's stated goal of becoming the top entertainment cable channel. Lefkowitz says FX's investment in acquired films tops $600,000,000. In return the network will have exclusive cable rights to films like Iron Man, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Avatar. It also includes family friendly fare from Dreamworks Animation, including Monsters vs. Aliens, Shrek Goes Fourth and the sequel to Kung Fu Panda.


"We are now, lock, stock the movie destination through 2014-2015," Lefkowitz said.


In addition, the network points to its acquisition of comedy Two and a Half Men as the type of off network show it is looking to acquire. Lefkowitz called it the network's "all star utility player" that can be used in a number of timeslots and situations.


FX also plans to pitch advertisers on product integration opportunities on its new, broader reaching shows.


"Our strategy is fewer, smarter, larger," Lefkowitz said. "We can promote their brands and really create the connection between the advertiser and the consumer. That is what we really think we can offer, impact, and the relationship with our consumers."


Lefkowitz used the example of Cadillac in drama series Damages as an effective use of product placement.




FX Proclaims the End of Edgy

by Jaime Weinman on Wednesday, April 7, 2010 2:31pm - 5 Comments


Not really, but the FX network’s newest presentation, according to Broadcasting and Cable, emphasizes its attempt to create shows with “broad,” “mainstream” appeal, more in the vein of other basic cable competitors like USA and TNT. This is a turnaround from the brand they tried successfully to create over the past few years, when they basically invented the concept that a basic-cable network could compete head-to-head with HBO and come up with “edgy” shows: The Shield, It’s Always Sunny, Damages (though at this point that’s less “edgy” than “insanely silly”). In fact, one of their upcoming light USA-style dramas, the private-eye show Terriers, is produced by The Shield’s Shawn Ryan, who is competing for the Busiest Man in TV title; he was recently working on Terriers, a new pilot, and episodes of Lie To Me in three different cities at once.


The success of Justified may have turned it into the template for what FX seeks to do: sort of do USA type of light dramas, but with an FX sheen of edginess to keep shows from being (as an executive puts it in the article) all the way on the “right side” of the entertainment spectrum with The Closer and White Collar. Still, the obvious inferrence here is that despite the popularity of Sons of Anarchy and other successful FX dramas, the network has concluded that a basic-cable operation can’t sustain a lineup that’s dark and edgy across the board.


This may demonstrate that the HBO model doesn’t fully transfer to basic cable (we’ll see how long AMC can keep it up), or it may simply demonstrate that all of cable is going “lighter” in its own way. HBO, after all, has lightened up too, just in a different way from USA; its flagship show, True Blood, is trashier and campier than the more high-minded shows of the network’s past, and its upcoming projects include more genre material that can attract younger viewers (like Game of Thrones). They’re still doing dark material, but with a layer of fantasy that makes it less obviously dark.


So this could be the flip side of the trend I’ve pointed to before, where light fare has trouble taking hold on broadcast networks. At the same time that broadcast networks are getting darker, cable is getting lighter. Obviously there will still be some shows that are too dark for ABC/CBS/NBC and will find a home on cable instead, but cable is also increasingly the home for shows that are too light for broadcast — and what’s more, cable seems to need light entertainment in order to survive. Which puts networks like FX in a tricky position: their status as a known brand depends on being tough and gritty, but they need to do more light genre entertainment in order to attract more viewers and advertisers.


Update: AMC, I forgot to mention, is also going for an HBO-style combination of edgy/violent with genre material, further cementing their status as basic cable’s most reliable HBO imitator.


Update 2: A lot of FX’s new strategy may have to do with Damages, a very expensive show that has never delivered the kind of numbers or even (after the first season) prestige that the network would have hoped for. The head of FX just confirmed that the show’s production company is in talks with DirectTV to save it, Friday Night Lights-style, by defraying some of FX’s costs; if that doesn’t happen, it’s probably gone.


a number of fans of these shows/this station here...thoughts?

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