Saturday, March 30, 2019

If I Were Disney CEO Part 36 - FX

FX is an American basic cable and satellite television channel created by 20th Century Fox Television to provide a foray into large-scale interactive television.  While the channel originally centered on original live programming and rebroadcasts of classic television, the network quickly developed into a home for hard hitting original scripted programming with mature themes and content, as well as high-quality writing, directing, and acting.  A basic cable channel following the model fo premium cable channels like HBO, Showtime, and Starz.  FX also carries rebroadcasts of theatrical films and broadcast-network sitcoms, and has spun out two sister channels in FXX, focusing on comedic programming, and FXM, or FX Movies.  FX is a leader in adults 25-54, and male viewers in particular.

FX was acquired by the Disney company as part of its acquisition of 20th Century Fox, and with the acquisition, Disney can use this channel to round out its portfolio.  If the Disney channels speak to children and families and ABC represents the general public, FX is then the channel for the discerning adult viewer.  It is the sophisticate brand, the Criterion collection if you will.

And it's that space that drives my recommendations for the channel.

Primary Goals for the Division:

  • Focus on Quality - If FX is going to stake its brand on filling a niche similar to AMC or HBO, the programs have to be quality offerings.  The last thing Disney needs is another channel filled with fluff or to return to the perceived cheapquel era.  
  • Be Daring - This is something FX is already doing with programming ranging from niche comedy to historical dramas, but it should be continued and a trademark of the brand.  The current tag line is Fearless and the channel should reflect it, with programming across genres, across formats, and across ratings.
  • Don't Be Afraid of All Ages Programming - I know FX has traditionally relied on programming that pushed the edges of television ratings.  However, focusing solely on this aspect would have the network over look programming like the new Twilight Zone revamp, Downtown Abbey, etc.  The focus should be on quality, compelling storytelling, regardless of rating.
  • FX Feeds Hulu, Feeds FX - FX is probably the channel within Disney's stable that has the most to gain from the majority ownership of Hulu.  The obvious benefit is FX programming going directly to Hulu, but the reverse would also seem to be beneficial.  Why not air 11.22.63 on FX, now that it has had a full run on Hulu?  Or the Man in the High Castle?  This is a variation of the old movie release strategy previously discussed in the ABC post, but it still applies here.  Content should be able to move from streaming to basic cable in order to reach the broadest audiences.
  • Hello Defenders - FX is a natural home for Marvel's edgier Defenders content, previously aired on Netflix.  The material could easily fit within the ratings restrictions, would be a natural later prime time program, and would boost brand recognition of the two.  Once the cooling period has ended, this is where future Defenders programming should air.
  • Consider Rebranding to Searchlight - I'm all for consistency in branding.  Disney has Disney movies, Disney+ streaming, and Disney Channels.  The same would be apparent under ESPN and National Geographic.  While FX is related to Fox, it is separate enough to be confused with the "New Fox" that remains.  Just as I would recommend Disney rebrand the film divisions as 20th Century Pictures and Searchlight Pictures, rebranding FX as Searchlight TV would signal the commitment to quality and niche fair, while removing the connection to Fox.
  • Reconsider FXX and FXM - The market may be there for these channels, but I'm wary of over-extension in Disney's offerings.  These may be two prime candidates for paring down.
FX can be a wonderful and important addition to the Disney family, if it is fully utilized.  I believe the goals above will help in that regard.

Next in the series, ESPN.

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