Mmm... Apps: FXNow Hopes to Rival HBO Go With 'Simpsons World'
This story first appeared in the Aug. 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
A few years ago, TV network apps such as HBO Go were the next big thing. But rights complications keep many libraries thin and plenty of streaming forays have underwhelmed. Now, on the eve of The Simpsons' landmark $1 billion off-net run on FXX, the sister FXNow app stands perhaps the best chance yet of fulfilling a network's "TV Everywhere" promise.
FXX begins airing The Simpsons Aug. 21 with a 200-hour marathon before it makes its app debut in October. Simpsons World, the streaming home for all those episodes (named after creator Matt Groening's 2010 book), will be housed within FXNow — a boon to the 8-month-old app. "If we're going to buy this property that we believe so much in, we want to future-proof it," says FX COO and program strategy president Chuck Saftler. "The critical element of that is owning all episodes on a nonlinear basis all the time … We look at FXNow as our fourth network that we're curating on top of FX, FXX and FXM."
Building such a sprawling digital hub was key in securing the 20th TV series' 552-episode library. The first-time nonlinear availability of one of television's most iconic brands likely will bring eyeballs to FXNow's other originals across networks. FX Networks CEO John Landgraf is leading the charge to value nontraditional ratings, and app viewing is on the rise. Game of Thrones saw 22 percent of its nearly 20 million weekly viewers come from HBO Go last season.
FXNow still needs to settle the authentication part of the equation. Like all TV Everywhere apps, its negotiations with cable, satellite and telecom providers haven't happened all at once, and FXNow is only available to about 60 percent of FX subscribers. But betting big on The Simpsons is a sign that all TV networks are looking to challenge Netflix's streaming dominance. As Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes noted on Aug. 7, HBO wants "a platform that could not only deliver HBO networks but also Turner networks and frankly other networks."