Starting this week, FX Networks is expanding its brand beyond linear TV with FX on Hulu, its new streaming hub on the Hulu streaming service. And the company is shaking things up in other ways as well.
Going forward, FX is changing up its scheduling strategy for all original shows on FX and FXX, as well as its digital FX on Hulu series: The season premieres of all new shows will include at least two episodes airing that first night (or, in the case of FX on Hulu shows, available to stream on premiere day), with an additional episode following each week. Previously, shows would debut with a single episode.
That shift kicks off this week. FX programmed two episodes of new comedy Breeders, which debuted last night on FX, and the week’s other debuts—new FXX comedy Dave on Thursday, returning FX shows Better Things and Cake on Thursday and FX on Hulu limited series Devs on Thursday—will each have two episodes available out of the gate.
The premiere shift, inspired by new Disney corporate sibling Hulu, was FX’s solution to its ongoing “dilemma” about whether to shift to the binge model embraced by streaming rivals like Netflix, in which an entire season of a series is dropped at once, said FX Networks chairman John Landgraf.
“Clearly you do have people that really love that model,” said Landgraf. “We debated and debated, bingeing versus weekly.” (It’s a scheduling conundrum that streaming services are struggling with as well.)
While both options have pros and cons, the binge model’s biggest disadvantage, said Landgraf, was that shows only stay in the zeitgeist for “two weeks” before audiences gravitate to the next new series.
“I just believe so strongly that things are allowed to exist and bubble in the culture when they’re weekly, and that actually anticipating something that you really want to see and not having it [all at once] is a part of falling in love with it,” said Landgraf.
Yet linear’s traditional weekly release model also has drawbacks. “One of its disadvantages is you put all this effort in marketing and then you only offer one [episode] of someone’s show,” said Landgraf. “Ironically, the company that had come up with what we thought was the best solution was Hulu: let’s make more than one episode available.”
So FX chose to follow’s Hulu general strategy of dropping two or three episodes of a show on premiere day, with weekly episodes following after that. (However, Hulu does binge-release some shows, especially comedies.) In rare cases, FX will drop all episodes of a show at once, as it will do with docuseries The Most Dangerous Animal of All; FX will air all four episodes on Friday.
“We’re going to change our play patterns on the linear networks to the thing that was pioneered by Hulu, because we think it’s better,” said Landgraf.
Mrs. America creator Dahvi Waller, whose limited series—starring Cate Blanchett—was made for FX but was moved to FX on Hulu, where it will exclusively be available beginning April 15, was initially nervous that the switch to a streaming service meant the show’s entire nine-episode season would be released at once.
“That was my first question, because we talked in the writer’s room about how you break story for a show that is going to be binged versus a show that’s going to be shown linearly,” said Waller. “So we broke all the story and wrote the scripts with the idea that it would be once a week.”
Instead, the first three Mrs. America episodes will be available on April 15, with the remaining episodes released weekly after that.
“I’m really happy about that,” Waller said. “I’m glad we’re going to keep the conversation going for a few more weeks, rather than it [comes] all at once, and then everyone’s done by Monday and onto the next thing.”
Hulu also prompted another big scheduling shift for FX: its decision to cluster multiple premieres of new and returning during the same week, to help launch FX on Hulu.
Initially, FX execs assumed the branded hub would roll out with limited series Devs, the first FX on Hulu exclusive series. But former Hulu CEO Randy Freer (who announced his exit from the company last month; Hulu CMO Kelly Campbell was promoted to president last week and will now lead the company) suggested a more robust approach.
Landgraf recalled, “As Randy said, ‘Well, I don’t know if a single show, no matter how good it is, is going to really make a splash and penetrate in a world of 532 series [released in 2019] and all of the other streaming services. What if we actually made it more significant and clustered a bunch of premieres together?”
FX execs agreed. “It was a really, really smart idea, so we remade our schedule,” said Landgraf.