Fox hopes to “create some precedents” with its digital plans for The Simpsons later this year when the long-running animated series will become “the face” of FXX, COO Chase Carey told analysts this morning in a call to discuss fiscal Q2 earnings. No specifics yet — but the exec says that it’s one of the reasons why Fox decided to keep the re-run rights instead of licensing to someone else. “There are times when our distribution businesses have a unique ability to take advantage of a set of rights. And The Simpsons is a perfect example.” The show will “help brand…and help drive” FXX, Carey adds, but Fox isn’t “turning it into The Simpsons Channel.” Would a similar strategy also make sense for, say, FX’s The Americans? Not necessarily, Carey says. “When you get to a one-size-fits-all [strategy], I don’t think that’s the way to go….What we’re not going to do is undersell the content” when others “see values that exceed what it’s worth to us.”
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.
Sacha Baron Cohen is dusting off his first famous alter ego, Ali G, in Ali G: Rezurection. The show, which will premiere on comedy-centric FXX early next year, includes every episode of HBO’s Da Ali G Show …
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.
FXX hasn’t really unveiled itself — the FX comedy-network spinoff debuts originals of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, The League and late-night strip Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell launch tomorrow night — but the network’s already talking about its Labor Day Warmup numbers. Seems that when you used to be Fox Soccer Channel, even a lobotomizingly long 7 AM-to-midnight Parks & Recreation rerun marathon, followed by a two-hour Mad About You exhumation. will churn up enough viewers to generate gimongous ratings percent increases. This also serves to explain why reporting percent increases so often can be a mug’s game.
Paced by its Parks & Rec marathon, FXX posted primetime gains of 860% in adults 18-34 compared with September 2012 averages. And by 860% we mean 48,000 viewers instead of 5,000. In total viewers, FXX’s Find This Channel Labor Day rerun marathon coughed up a slightly less impressive 108% increase, from 39,000 soccer viewers to 81,000 Parks & Rec-aholics.
Comparing Labor Day to Labor Day, the results are even more stupendous: For Total Day, FXX posted gains of 1,850% in 18-49 compared to Fox Soccer Channel. In fairness, Fox Soccer Channel only averaged 2,000 viewers last Labor Day. FXX’s comedy retread-a-thon logged 54,000 viewers.
Moral of this story? It’s good to be the former Fox Soccer Channel.
FXX has given a series pickup to Chozen, an FX animated comedy pilot from Danny McBride and his Rough Pictures partners Jody Hill and David Gordon Green. This marks the first original series order for the new network, which launches on Sept. 2. At FXX, Chozen joins FX transplants It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, The League and Legit as well as late-night show Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell. FXX will launch with a Wednesday night block of Sunny and The League, plus Totally Biased airing Monday-Friday. Sunny and The League will be relieved by Legit and Chozen in Q1 2014.
Chozen was written by from up-and-coming scribe Grant Dekernion, former writer’s assistant on McBride, Hill and Green’s HBO series Eastbound & Down, which was canceled today. Bobby Moynihan (Saturday Night Live) will voice the lead character in the comedy, about a gay white rapper fresh out of prison with a new message and new skills, which he will use in his quest for redemption and domination. Dekernion will write and rap the songs for the lead character of the series, which he is executive producing with McBride, Hill, Green as well as Adam Reed and Matt Thompson of Floyd County Prods. (Archer) for FX Prods. “Chozen is an outrageous and ballsy comedy, but it’s also a very smart examination of the rap culture,” said Nick Grad, President of Original Programming at FX Networks and FX Prods.
At its upfront presentation, FX brass confirmed the launch of a third FX-branded entertainment network, FXX, and an expansion of FXM (movie channel). FXX, expected to take over Fox Soccer Channel, will be available in 74 million homes and will launch September 2. The expansion across the three FX networks will be supported by a big increase in original programming. FX president John Landgraf projected that FX would double its original offerings to 25 original series within the next few years to achieve parity with ABC, NBC and CBS.
As part of the new FXX, the network today also renewed three FX comedy series — flagship It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, The League and Legit — that will help launch FXX, along with late-night show Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell, which will expand to five nights a week when it moves to the new network September 2. The plan for FXX is to start with four original comedy series and one late-night show; the fourth original comedy will likely come from one of FX’s half-hour pilots, FX president John Landgraf said. The new network’s original offerings will go up to six comedy series by the second year and to gradually introduce dramas.