Today is the beginning of upfront season, that magical time where networks make big announcements about the future of their channels in addition to what shiny new shows will hit your airwaves in the fall and what shiny old shows will get more episodes in the upcoming year.
According to Broadcast and Cable, the big news from FX is that it will expand from one channel into three. FX will continue to market to its’ 18 to 49 year old demographic, while launching spin-off channels to target both the older and younger portion of those markets. FXX (which will replace the current Fox Soccer Channel) will target younger audiences, with a focus on raunchier comedies such as The League. This network will launch in September. FXM meanwhile, will target the older viewers in the 25 to 54 year old bracket, and will focus on a robust set of movie and miniseries offerings.
The network will also have the shows to fill these precious programming hours by renewing hit series such as It’s Always Sunny, The League, Justified, Legit and Sons of Anarchy (Archer received a fifth season earlier this month as well), but also with a bevy of acquired syndicated programming including CBS’ Mike and Molly, How I Met Your Mother, to prop up the finances for its’ more critically acclaimed original programming. Particularly notable is FX’s increased willingness to get into the late night game, expanding Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell to five nights a week.
FX president John Landgraf also announced some new series such as one based on the film Fargo (the Coen brothers are confirmed to be involved on the project) and Guillermo Del’ Toro’s The Strain. FX anticipates rotating 25 original series (which is roughly the same amount of programming as the big four networks provide) through the three networks during a given year.
This decision shows the burgeoning strength of FX in the basic cable market, with only USA as a credible rival on that tier. The three channel plan almost makes the network closer in nature to the premium channel layouts of HBO, Showtime, or Starz, where multiple networks under the same branding is commonplace. Furthermore, FX’s track record has been incredibly strong over the past few years (the only flop in recent memory was Unsupervised), so expanding the network to provide more quality programming is welcomed by yours truly in the hopes that I can even further reduce the number of reality shows I have to review. It also brings FX into line with a current trend in cable, where networks tend to focus on comedy or drama but not both (as an example TBS and TNT went all comedy and drama respectively to further delineate their brands, and even a broader channel like USA tends to lean much more heavily towards drama). The massive roster of top tier talent that they are assembling for this expansion further increases the odds for success. Finally, this feels like a huge corporate coup for News Corp. as a whole, as it can turn two flailing networks (SPEED and Fox Soccer Channel) into two potentially successful networks (in Fox Sports One and FXX).