The Player: FX
The Date: April 25, 2007
The Venue: News Corp. headquarters, New York
Key Execs: Jon Landgraf, president-general manager; Michael J. Brochstein, senior VP; Bruce Lefkowitz, exec VP-ad sales
The Food: Three types of meat, salad o' plenty, unlimited soft drinks and an assortment of candy bars
The Swag: Ad clients who've been wooed by FX during its traveling roadshow this season have been showered with gifts aligned with the network's upfront theme for 2007: "engagement party." That includes a Tiffany's bag full of honeymoon-worthy trappings such as a bathrobe, booze and baubles.
The Ratings Game: FX ranks fourth among all basic cablers in prime-time season to date with an average 666,000 viewers. The live-plus-seven numbers are according to Nielsen Media Research.
The Digital Play: FX is one of the few major cable nets not taking a robust broadband player to market this year, but its original shows will be included in the upcoming NBC/News Corp. project later this year.
Every once in awhile, the reporters covering every move the upfront players make like to be treated with the same amount of respect as any potential client. Therefore, props to FX for making us feel at home in the cozy screening room of sibling network Fox Sports for an abbreviated upfront presentation and a surround-sound screening of the pilot for the upcoming original drama "Damages," starring Glenn Close.
FX isn't the only network taking its presentations on the road this year -- the Hallmark Channel, NBC cable and MTV Networks are among the others who did smaller, conversation-based meetings with clients and media. But the strategy has already paid off for Michael Brochstein, the network's senior VP. He told Ad Age of a recent Los Angeles breakfast where he presented one key client with the upfront presentation via laptop, resulting in eggs Benedict with a side of new ad revenue.
What Mr. Brochstein and his FX team are shopping this year is an "engagement party," defining this year's big buzz word as "attention plus environment." The attention part of the equation is bolstered by FX's strong showing in MindShare's Clutter Watch study this year: The network had the second-least amount of non-program material among the 10 cable nets studied. It was also No. 1 in this year's Simmons engagement study and is often neck-to-neck with fellow drama dynamo TNT in other key categories.
President John Landgraf said he was proud of the tremendous programming prowess the network has shown since he came aboard in 2004, when "The Shield" and "Nip/Tuck" were the only original dramas on the schedule.
"We were pegged as a male network and considered close to Spike TV. But we're not a male network. You couldn't conceive of HBO as a gender-specific network," he said.
FX now competes with the likes of TNT and USA for first dibs on box-office hits airing on cable, having expanded beyond its in-house studio at 20th Century Fox in 2002. Mr. Brochstein said the movies have broadened the network's buying power and provide a good place to shift ad dollars when marketers get skittish about the network's occasionally racy prime-time content. "We get rapped for content on some of our FX originals; every once in a while, someone will make headlines. But with our movies, we allow them to pick what environment they want to be in."
The sneak preview of legal thriller "Damages" offered more of the network's gritty, dramatic edge and a powerful lead performance by Glenn Close, which should come in handy when it goes up against TNT's "Saving Grace" with Holly Hunter this summer. "We're here for anyone who likes challenging programming," Mr. Landgraf said.
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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that FX was ranked ninth among basic cablers. The network ranks fourth, so far, based season-to-date prime-time figures.