Fans of the FX Cold War spy drama The Americans can rest easy about the show’s prospects, as the network is very close to announcing a formal third-season renewal.
Speaking at an upfront breakfast event in New York this morning, FX Networks CEO John Landgraf said he was encouraged by The Americans’ creative direction and ratings performance. “We look forward to it being on our schedule for quite some time,” Landgraf said, adding that time-shifted viewing now accounts for nearly half of the show’s deliveries.
In a February interview with Adweek, Landgraf said FX was essentially rushed to get Season 1 of The Americans on the air last winter, so that it could run all 13 episodes without preemptions while also avoiding the GRP suck that is the NBA Playoffs.
“In the 10 years we’ve worked together there have been a few occasions when we picked up a show and then we had a date we had to back into,” Landgraf said. “The Americans is an example, between the scheduling and the fact that they had fairly short prep time in the writing and then Hurricane Sandy just wiped out the [Brooklyn] production offices. It was a really brutal first season … and I think we were very fortunate to come out of it.
“And you just look at Season 2 … just that extra few weeks in the writers’ room, going into production—that amount of time has made a huge difference in everything: in the writing, in the production design, everything.”
Through the first six episodes of Season 2, The Americans is averaging 1.43 million viewers and a 0.5 in the adults 18-49 demo, and while the live-plus-same-day deliveries are hardly robust, the show does a brisk business in playback. Per Nielsen, the season premiere jumped 81 percent in the demo upon application of live-plus-three-day data, and because so many of those views were delivered via on-demand platforms, the commercial content went largely unskipped.
As FX and its spinoff net, FXX, have so much new comedy in the pipeline—recently picked-up series include The Tracy Morgan Project, The Comedians, You’re the Worst and Married, and a handful of other pilots are under consideration—Landgraf said a final decision on the sophomore series Legit and the new animated show Chozen will be made in due time.
This season’s development slate marks the most robust in FX’s history, and it will boost the network’s roster of originals from 11 to 20. Particularly noteworthy newcomers include the upcoming (April 15) adaptation of the Coen brothers’ Fargo, Guillermo del Toro’s bloodcurdling vampire strip, The Strain, and the sprawling family saga, Tyrant.
Landgraf is particularly enthusiastic about Fargo. After admitting that it was audacious for FX to adapt one of the 100 best films ever made (according to the American Film Institute), he told Adweek that writer Noah Hawley has infused pure alchemy into the process.
“You’ll see as you get into the later episodes how Noah took advantage of that larger 10-hour canvas and how he used the form to his great advantage,” Landgraf said. “He took the vernacular of Fargo, the characters and tone of Fargo, the themes of Fargo, and he turned it into something totally different, something that stands wonderfully on its own.”
Should Fargo prove to be a runaway success (and the pilot is, for want of a better word, fantastic), FX may bring it back in a different form. “Fargo isn’t an open-ended series. It has a beginning, a middle and an end,” he said. “So if we were to bring it back, it would once again be located in Minnesota or North Dakota, that area, but telling a different story with different characters.”
On the marketplace side of the ledger, Fox Cable Networks president Lou LaTorre said he believes that cable ad sales volume will grow 5 percent in the upfront, for an increase of around $500 million versus the 2013-14 bazaar. The top-tier cable nets should see CPM increases in the 7 percent to 8 percent range.
LaTorre added that because media buyers “are obsessed with CPM rate-of-change,” we will likely see some top cable nets write deals based on a C7 currency. Ad dollars will continue to leak out of broadcast and into cable and digital, he added.