If FX does go ahead and split into two sister channels later this year, it could mean a rush of onscreen opportunities for comedic actors.
News Corp. is reportedly considering creating an FX spinoff to occupy the cable real estate currently held by Fox Soccer Channel, which has lost the rights to broadcast English Premier League soccer games in the United States to Comcast's NBC Sports Network. That's effectively gutted the sports network’s lineup and left executives wondering what to do with the channel, which reaches some 50 million subscribers in the U.S.
The nascent network, which has tentatively been dubbed FXX, is expected to target younger viewers with FX’s edgier brand of comedy, according to Broadcasting & Cable, an industry trade publication. FX’s lineup currently includes several dark comedies such as “Wilfred,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and the new series “Legit,” starring Australian comic Jim Jefferies. The network has also expanded into late-night with Russell Brand’s “BrandX” and W. Kamau Bell’s “Totally Biased.”
Even with its increase of original programming in recent years, however, FX would obviously need to create even more scripted dramas and comedies to fill two channels’ worth of programming hours.
So does it need to favor development of one genre over the other? The network's current drama lineup is robust, boasting hit series such as “Justified,” “American Horror Story,” and “Sons of Anarchy.” And while its comedies now include “The League” and Charlie Sheen's “Anger Management,” reliable properties like comedian Louis C.K.’s “Louie” is on hiatus until 2014 while “It's Always Sunny” is entering its ninth season.
That means if a programming switchover for FSC goes ahead in September, the new comedy-themed FXX network could be starved for original programming—that is, unless FX’s next round of pilots take off. FX is looking to add three new comedy series in 2013, according to Deadline. FX’s library of movies and syndicated shows would help fill out the lineups of both networks as well.
For now, Fox will only say that it’s evaluating all programming options. But splitting FX into separate comedy-focused and drama-focused channels isn’t as novel as it sounds. Turner Broadcasting has already done it with TBS and TNT, whose programming leans toward comedy and drama, respectively. AMC Networks has done something similar, with scripted dramas such as “Breaking Bad” airing on AMC while IFC broadcasts comedy series like “Portlandia.” And then there's NBCUniversal, which spreads programing out over its constellation of channels including Syfy, USA, E!, and NBC.