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FX's movie strategy part of winning approach

September 27, 2011 |  9:30 am

"Horrible Bosses" starring Charlie Day and Jennifer Aniston
While other cable networks gobble up reruns of hit dramas such as "NCIS" and "The Mentalist" for their prime-time lineups, FX bets big on movies to fill the parts of its schedule not occupied by its original comedies and dramas.

Over the last few years, News Corp.'s FX has opened up its wallet to buy just about every blockbuster out there. It seems as though a week doesn't go by without FX snatching the basic-cable rights to some box office smash. Its recent acquisitions include "The Hangover II" and "Horrible Bosses." 

FX's movie strategy seems to go against conventional wisdom. After all, by the time a movie hits a cable network, its already been on HBO or Starz or some other pay channel as well as available on DVD and Netflix.

But movies are delivering solid ratings for FX and also allow the network to offer product that will attract more female viewers, as many of its original shows skew male.

The movies also provide a haven for advertisers who might be wary of some of the more risque shows on the cable channel.

"There are certain advertisers that fit better in the 'Twilight' saga than 'Sons of Anarchy,'" said media buyer Mike Rosen of Starcom.

Buying box-office smashes is just one part of FX's strategy. The network has made a name for itself with its gritty dramas, including "Sons of Anarchy" and "Justified," and dark comedies "Louie" and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." For FX President John Landgraf, it's about standing out, not fitting in.

"The broadest channel has a tendency to be the blandest channel," Landgraf said of his competitors. "I think we've found a way to remain distinctive while getting bigger."

For more on Landgraf's programming strategy, please see the story in Tuesday's Los Angeles Times.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: A scene from "Horrible Bosses" starring Charlie Day and Jennifer Aniston. Credit: John P. Johnson / Warner Bros. /Associated Press