With cable TV there is a certain ebb and flow. Series debuts, series endings and new series take their place…it's the entertainment equivalent of the circle of life. FX is in the middle of that life cycle now with 2015 being a crucial year for the network and for Fox (NASDAQ: FOXA) investors whether they realize it or not.
Every major broadcast force in TV has a cable subsidiary. ABC has ABC Family and Disney, CBS has Showtime, NBC has a whole slew including USA and E! and Fox has FX (and that's not even counting all of their respective sports nets).
FX though has always been the one most closely aligned to its big sister station (Fox TV proper) as both channels has never wanted to play by the same rules other networks seemingly accepted as fact. Its motto was even "there is no box" and with shows like The Shield, Nip/Tuck and Rescue Me, the network quickly lived up to the slogan. These were game-changing series that were as brutal as they were refreshing.
Yet all reached their conclusions and eventually bowed out, but in the process paved the way for the next generation of series…in this case programs like Sons of Anarchy and Justified. This month we said goodbye to Sons and next month we'll start the swan song season for Justified, but FX has succeeded where others have failed in that it has a strong succession plan in place.
American Horror Story, The Americans and Fargo are still going strong with The Strain and Tyrant now firmly cemented with audiences as well. And that's not even counting the net's comedies such as Archer, Louie, Married and FXX's duo of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia and The League or all the new programming on the way for 2015.
So why is it important for investors to be aware of this when they are thinking about putting their money with Fox? Simply stated FX has grown to the same level as USA, TNT, HBO and Showtime in that it's a major player in the cable world and advertisers are beginning to notice.
Take Sons for example because it's one of the most under-estimated series of the last decade. Since its 2008 premiere (the night after the start of the final season of Shield), the show grew close to 200% in viewership and the key demo. Few shows can boast that fact.
Furthermore, counting the season's Live + 3 results, the show's final batch of episodes averaged a total viewership of 7.54 million and 5.0 million in the 18-49 category…that makes it the most watched season of any FX series in the two decades the channel's been around. Incidentally the show's penultimate season had previously held that record (with 6.98 million viewers and 4.7 million in the demo), but that just shows Sons' staying power.
That's a major accomplishment, but having a strong roster of established series and programming in place is also no small feat. Remember, while Sons' finale ranks up there as FX's second most watched single program of all time (counting time shifted data), it's actually American Horror Story that holds the record.
The most current incarnation, Freak Show, made such a splash (with 10 million viewers and 6.5 million in the 18-49 demo) that is was quickly renewed not long after for a new season and eventually spawned a spin-off…American Crime Story (also from Ryan Murphy).
When you look at Fox's stock, it's important to remember there are a few areas to consider. You have Fox's broadcast network with hits like American Idol, Gotham and The Following, 20th Century Fox films with the X-Men franchise and young adult success stories like The Fault In Our Stars and The Maze Runner and cable presence FX with its stockpile of programming.
Between Murphy's stories, Justified's final season and upcoming potential hits in the making such as Denis Leary's Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll in queue the network is entering 2015 right where it wants to be and right where investors should see it - as part of a powerful trio of media powerhouses.
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