Does FX Networks Have Another 'Sons of Anarchy' Up its Sleeve?

The show has been a big win for FX, but with only one season left in its run, the network needs another hit.

Jun 9, 2014 at 9:27AM

This December, FX drama Sons of Anarchy finished its sixth and penultimate season with record-high ratings. The September season premiere tallied 5.87 million viewers and won the 18-49 demographic for the night . The series finale recorded a network-finale-high of 5.2 million viewers. Notably, 3.5 million members of this audience fell into the coveted 18-49 demographic .

As the show heads into its final season this fall, the question becomes, will FX be able to fill the void left behind by Sons of Anarchy?

An impact for its parent channel
Sons of Anarchy has helped FX continue to be a moneymaker for its parent company, FOX (NASDAQ:FOX), the past few years. In 2012, a year that saw FX moving toward an annual profit of a half a billion dollars , the show was the network's highest-rated series .

Fox's 2014 first quarter total cable earnings were up more than 10% from 2013, and president Chase Carey singled out FX for "its original series that are transforming FX into a standout, must-have brand ." 

A key demo for thirsty advertisers
One of the reasons the show is so attractive to advertisers is that over two-thirds of its viewers fall into the coveted 18-49 demographic .

FX's success with this audience has led to a recent partnership with MillerCoors to showcase the beverage company's products in its shows over the next three years. This deal builds on an existing agreement in which Sons of Anarchy featured MillerCoors drinks .

Are current shows growing?
Of course, Sons of Anarchy is not FX's only well-rated drama. Most significantly, the thriller anthology American Horror Story closed its third season with 4.24 million viewers tuning in for the finale and earning a 2.2 rating in the 18-49 demo that episode. The show's season opener was the second highest single telecast in FX's history, behind only Sons of Anarchy's season opener this year . A fourth installation of the series will air this October.

Newcomer Fargo is off to a strong start, with its April premiere jumping from 2.65 million viewers to 4.46 million once DVR viewing was taken into account .

However, other programs are not necessarily providing sustainable growth. The Timothy Olyphant-starrer Justified performed well in its season finale this year with 2.37 million viewers (before DVR numbers), growing 5% from its previous season. But like Sons of Anarchy, Justified also is scheduled for just one remaining season .

And while boosted by DVR numbers, spy-drama The Americans is losing steam. Its second season premiere was down 44% in viewers from its series premiere , and the show hit a series low this May with a mere 1.12 million viewers and just a 0.3 in the 18-49 demo .

What to watch for next
The network debuts two new drama series this summer. Tyrant will follow a young man who left his war-torn, Middle Eastern country 20 years ago and has now returned. This show premiers on June 24. In a move that's sure to please horror fans, FX is also launching a vampire show this summer called The Strain with heavy hitter Guillermo del Toro signed on as an executive producer .

The concepts above certainly fall in line with the high-stakes, action-oriented brand that has worked well for FX thus far.

There's also reason to be optimistic about FX's development slate. The network can continue to capitalize on brand recognition with projects like an American Psycho reboot to keep its Fargo series company. Also, the network is developing a cyber crimes drama from Ed Burns, whose credits include HBO hits The Wire and Generation Kill .

FX may be losing a record-setting performer in Sons of Anarchy, but there's good reason to believe the network will continue to be a money-maker for its parent company. With a schedule and slate that combines seasoned writers and producers with cinematic and action-filled story lines, this cable player should be on track to continue making waves and profits.

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4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

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Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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