Friday, June 20, 2014

FX's 10/90 strategy for ordering new shows

The Wall Street Journal has an article about FX's strategy for ordering new shows: rather than order one season at a time, it's ordering 10 to start with, and if it likes the ratings that those 10 get, it will order 90 more. Why 90 more? That gets the show to the magic number of 100, which is generally thought to be enough for a good syndication deal.

As the article notes, it usually takes a series five years to get to 100+ episodes (assuming 20-24 episodes a season; cable shows typically have shorter seasons). In the meantime, if ratings go up, so do salaries.

Still, this is what's particularly interesting about the strategy:
[U]sing the "10/90" strategy, the channel aims to produce all of that content in as little as two years. If the strategy produces a hit, FX will get the equivalent of what it would get from a hit broadcast show. If it doesn't work, FX argues, the downside is limited because it gets a discount for ordering so many episodes at once.
2 years? Sheesh, that means they're going to produce something like 45 episodes a year after the first season of 10 episodes. I know soap operas shoot very quickly, but I was under the impression that most prime time shows take about 8+ days to complete an episode (not counting the time to write the script). That's a pretty tight window to make 45 episodes, and doesn't give any break time.

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