FX Networks, which is making a big push in comedy with nine half-hour pilots, has picked up two of them – Married (formerly know as the untitled Andrew Gurland) and You’re The Worst – to series with 10-episode orders for a July debut on the flagship channel FX. “Married and You’re The Worst represent the continuing expansion of our comedy brand. They are smart, funny and adult,” FX’s Nick Grad said. The two shows, from FX Prods., also delve in marriage and romantic relationships, an area FX had largely stayed away from until now, focusing on more male-oriented fare.
Twenty-four seasons into its run, The Simpsons is finally headed to cable. In a competitive situation with five networks bidding, FXX has landed the exclusive cable as well as VOD/non-linear rights to the longest-running comedy series in TV history. The deal also is set to make TV history as the priciest off-network pact ever, expected to fetch at least $750 million, and the first one to include full digital rights. The enormous size of the deal — which some say could potentially reach $1 billion if the series keeps producing new seasons — stems from the staggering volume of Simpsons episodes available: 530 when the show starts airing on FXX in August 2014 and growing to 574 by September 2015. At the start, FXX will have access to the first 24 seasons, with another season added when it gets off-circulation on Fox, which recently greenlighted a 26th season. For instance, Season 25 will become available on FXX when Season 26 premieres on Fox next September.
Exact terms of the deal have not been disclosed but insiders estimate that FXX would be paying about $1.25 million per week, with the length of the agreement said to be about a decade (at least eight years, possibly 10). “The Simpsons is indisputably one of the greatest shows in television history,” said FX Networks CEO John Landgraf. “This was a very long, hard and complicated negotiation and I credit the relentlessness and diligence of Chuck Saftler for getting it done.” Said FX Networks COO Saftler, “Woo Hoo!” He called the back-and-forth “the longest negotiations that I am aware of for an off-network series” that took a month from the first offer to sealing a “landmark” deal. “This is a historic deal for FXX and FX Networks and I don’t believe there will ever be another one like it,” Saftler said. Besides the sheer volume, unprecedented is the granting of full VOD/non-linear rights to a cable network in conjunction with an off-network agreement, which normally gives nets rolling 5-6 episodes. In this case, FXNOW, the soon-to-be-launched authenticated mobile viewing app of FX Networks, will offer all seasons of The Simpsons that are available on FXX. As for that staggering volume of 574 episodes and counting? While a typical syndicated show that has produced 100 episodes is on a 5-week repeat cycle — meaning that the cable network goes through all of the episodes in 5 weeks after which it starts again from the pilot — it will be months and months before The Simpsons will have to repeat an episode on FXX, giving it a feel of an original run. Saftler expects The Simpsons to expand FXX’s “reach and frequency,” broadening its audience to include everyone from today’s teenagers who watch the show on Fox, to their parents who were teenagers when the show first premiered. Because of the virtual lack of repeats, he expects fans to check back often.
It took two decades, but The Simpsons producer 20th Century Fox TV had pretty good timing when it finally took The Simpsons to the cable marketplace. Several years ago, 21st Century Fox COO Chase Carey suggested that the company could launch a Simpsons cable channel (the volume of the Simpsons library could sustain that). Instead, the longest-running scripted series will serve as a backbone of another upstart Fox cable network, FXX. Given the benefits an asset like The Simpsons provides, FXX went very aggressively after the property in an already competitive marketplace. The network had been considered the frontrunner from the get-go with its vast shelf space that can easily accommodate a 600-episode off-network series and properly run and amortize it, something established cable networks with a full dance card of syndicated fare would find harder to do. That, combined with the financial windfall for 20th TV is making observers call the deal a “win-win” for both sides, and the ideal scenario parent 21 Century Fox had been hoping for. “The Simpsons long ago crossed over from ‘brilliant award-winning comedy series’ to ‘full-fledged cultural phenomenon,’ and this landmark deal is a testament to its enduring power and relevance,” said 20th TV chairmen Gary Newman and Dana Walden.
ExxonMobil Corp has sued FX Networks over its use of the second “X” in its new, comedy-centric network which, the oil company says, infringes on its interlocking XX’s. This double-cross brawl may come as a surprise to Dos Equis (that’s Spanish for “Two X”), which also has a double-X logo, and we assume the legal wrangling will be be watched with considerable interest by the XX chromosome, and the roman numeral for 20.
What has world’s largest publicly traded oil company ExxonMobil’s knickers so knotted is the interlocking-ness of FXX‘s “X’s” in its logo. “ExxonMobil has invested many millions of dollars for more than four decades in advertising and promoting” the logo, David Beck, ExxonMobil’s attorney, said in the filing today in U.S. District Court in Houston, a copy of which was obtained by Deadline (read it here). FX Networks and its studio affiliates, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. launched FXX network, and its offending logo, just last month. The network refused to drop the interlocking Xs when the oil company requested the change, according to the complaint. Because we are nitpickers: ExxonMobil’s logo features double-X’s that descend from left to right, while FXX’s logo ascends from left to right. Still, ExxonMobil served up examples of web postings, from such notables as GungHo, The Enchanted Goatee and JT_Kirk, decrying FXX’s effort to confuse TV viewers.
Stephanie Gibbons‘ new role at FX Networks will see her oversee the creation and implementation of all print and electronic marketing and advertising campaigns for FX, FXM and the new network FXX, which debuts September 2. As President of Marketing and On-Air Promotions, she will also spearhead all off-network and cross-channel platform marketing initiatives for FX Networks through Internet, mobile, VOD and other alternate media. She will continue to report to FX Networks and FX Productions CEO John Landgraf. Gibbons and her team have won numerous marketing awards since she joined FX in 2004, creating campaigns for The Shield, Rescue Me and Nip/Tuck, and later American Horror Story, The Americans, Sons Of Anarchy, Justified, Archer, Louie, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, The League, Wilfred, Legit and Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell. She launched FX’s first branding campaign “There Is No Box” and the latest initiative “Fearless”, and helped relaunch FXNetworks.com.
Writer-director Yule Caise has been selected as this year’s Fox Writers Intensive Fellow. Chosen from the sophomore class of 10 FWI finalists, Caise has inked a development deal with FX Networks, in conjunction with Fox Broadcasting Co and 20th Century Fox Television, and will pitch a new original script to FX. In addition, Fox will award Caise’s referring organization, the NAACP Hollywood Bureau, a $15,000 FWI grant to be earmarked for its writing program. In addition to Caise, the sophomore FWI class included finalists Angela Allen, Sal Calleros, Carol Doyle, Sara Endsley, Warren Hsu Leonard, Nick Ozeki, Chitra Sampath, Theo Travers and Marisa Wegrzyn. Following their completion of the FWI, all of the finalists are being submitted for potential staffing on Fox entertainment productions. To date, six of the 10 FWI finalists have been staffed on series for the 2013-14 season, including Fox’s Sleepy Hollow and Raising Hope, Showtime’s House Of Lies and ABC’s Killer Women and Influence.
EXCLUSIVE: FX Networks has given a pilot order to Man Seeking Woman, a half-hour comedy pilot from former Saturday Night Live writer/humorist/novelist Simon Rich and Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video. The project, based on Rich’s book The Last Girlfriend On Earth, is described as a sweet, surreal, and bitingly funny look at the life and death stakes of dating in New York City. Jonathan Krisel (Portlandia, SNL) is set to direct the pilot from a script by Rich. The two are executive producing with Broadway Video for FX Prods. If Man Seeking Woman goes to series, it will make 28-year-old Rich one of the youngest series creators ever. He already is one of the youngest writers in the history of SNL, where he spent four seasons from 2007-2011 before segueing to a writing job at Pixar Studios. Rich, son of former New York columnist Frank Rich, was still an undergraduate at Harvard, where he edited The Harvard Lampoon, when he landed a two-book deal at Random House, His first book, Ant Farm: And Other Desperate Situations, was nominated for the Thurber Prize for American Humor. His first novel, Elliot Allagash, was optioned by Jason Reitman. The Last Girlfriend On Earth, Rich’s fifth book, was published in January. Man Seeking Woman joins two other comedy pilots at FX Networks, which is ramping up comedy development ahead of the fall launch of comedy-centric FXX: the Tracy Morgan-starrer Death Pact and the Andrew Gurland project.
On the heels of John Landgraf’s promotion to CEO of FX Networks; FX Prods., his top lieutenants are getting elevated to president level. Nick Grad and Eric Schrier have each been named President, Original Programming for FX …