To try to stay relevant in an industry becoming overpopulated with streaming services, several broadcast and cable networks have begun setting new linear strategies and leaning into what sets them apart from digital. FX, however, is taking a different approach.
It will be expanding its linear brand into the streaming world with FX on Hulu, a new branded hub rolling out March 2 on its corporate sibling’s platform. FX Networks chairman John Landgraf called the move a “transformative opportunity for the FX brand.”
FX on Hulu will be the streaming home for FX’s current and legacy series as well as several FX series airing exclusively on the streaming service, including the sci-fi limited series Devs, debuting March 5, and limited series Mrs. America, beginning April 15. All FX and FXX episodes will stream on Hulu the day after their linear premieres, and the hub will also showcase all episodes of over 40 current and past FX shows.
Now that parent company Disney, which acquired FX in its Fox deal one year ago and assumed operational control of Hulu last May, has successfully launched Disney+, it’s looking to bolster Hulu’s offering as it continues to grow its streaming footprint.
The FX brand had “hit a ceiling” as a basic cable network, said Landgraf, as cord-cutting has shrunk the number of cable homes. FX on Hulu gives access to Hulu’s 30.7 million subscribers in addition to FX’s 85 million cable households, as well as a much younger audience.
While other rivals, including WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal, will be featuring truncated versions of their basic networks’ offerings on their respective new streaming services, Landgraf “wanted FX on Hulu to be the same brand” as the linear channels.
“I didn’t want these [new original] shows setting over there and then all these other shows sitting over there. I wanted people to be able to experience the whole of it because we want to continue to grow and refine, but we want to be consistent about who we are,” he said.
Disney shut down FX’s ad-free subscription service FX+, which had only been available to cable subscribers, last August. Its current FX Now app, which requires authentication from cable subscribers, “won’t change at all,” said Landgraf.
Since the Disney-Fox deal closed, Landgraf has been developing the FX on Hulu platform alongside top Disney TV and streaming execs, including then-Hulu CEO Randy Freer. Disney said on Jan. 31 that Freer is departing Hulu as the company looks to further integrate the streaming service into its direct-to-consumer and international segment; the FX on Hulu strategy will not be affected by his exit. (Hulu CMO Kelly Campbell, who was promoted to president last week, will now lead the streaming service.)
FX created the shows and is running point on publicity, creative marketing and awards marketing for FX on Hulu, while Hulu is overseeing ad sales (head of ad sales Peter Naylor now reports to Disney ad sales chief Rita Ferro as part of the Jan. 31 restructuring) and business marketing.
Partnering with Hulu “is a smart move for them,” said Chris Hecht, evp of investment at media agency Spark Foundry. “It shows [Disney] seamlessly connecting their assets, FX and Hulu, and enabling a fluid model for viewership, which is critical given the rapid migration to OTT environments. It also opens up greater opportunity for incremental viewership and reach, which is attractive.”
Hecht isn’t worried about potential brand confusion between FX and Hulu’s offerings. “I think viewers will catch on quickly,” he said.
The creators of the shows selected as FX on Hulu originals said they are happy with their new streaming home.
“I cut the cord years ago so I actually have Hulu, and that’s how I watch a lot of my television,” said Mrs. America creator Dahvi Waller. “And with all Hulu’s subscribers, I thought it was a great platform for the show, so I was quite pleased.”
As the FX on Hulu hub rolls out, “I’m humble about the fact that we have to put that brand to work for Hulu. I have plenty to learn about what works on that platform and who the audience is,” said Landgraf. “I care deeply about how well what we do works for them. We need to be a part of the streaming war.”
Yet Landgraf is also still remaining focused on FX’s linear networks, which he said will still feature a “robust” content slate.
“We don’t know where it will go over time,” he said, but “for the foreseeable future, the FX channels will be as important a platform for FX programming as Hulu is.”