Why Fox Is Airing New Episodes of Charlie Sheen's 'Anger Management' (Analysis)

Anger Management Sheen Episodic - H 2013
Prashant Gupta/FX Network

Anger Management Sheen Episodic - H 2013

It's been almost one year since FX launched its Charlie Sheen comeback vehicle Anger Management to 5.74 million viewers. Since the premiere broke cable comedy records, the ensuing decline was predictable -- but not nearly steep enough to derail plans for the 90-episode renewal that was on the table.

These days, the series' ratings are barely recognizable. The May 23 episode of the Lionsgate Television-produced series averaged just 777,000 viewers and 414,000 in the targeted adults 18-49 demographic, a 0.3 rating. That's likely one reason why next week finds the deflated series starting a four-episode stint on broadcast sibling Fox. The network quietly announced last week that four episodes of Anger Management, including two first-runs, will air on Mondays throughout June, in lieu of The Mindy Project repeats.

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It needs to be said that cross promotion on Fox is hardly unusual, especially during the summer months. This past Friday, the broadcast network aired an episode of cable sibling Nat Geo newcomer Brain Games. And in 2012, fellow FX original Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell got its own four-episode stint on Fox -- including a first-run episode.

But while those broadcasts might have been convenient and mildly helpful in finding a wider audience tfor the young series, Anger Management goes into its Fox run with no shortage of public awareness. And it could use a shot in the arm.

Last summer's inaugural season of Anger Management made it the highest-rated new cable comedy that year, averaging a massive 4.53 million total viewers and 2.5 million adults 18-49. The second season, which premiered in January, is currently averaging just 1.087 million viewers and 616,278 adults 18-49 in Live+Same Day returns. The sitcom still sees a sizable boost in time-shifted viewing, with an average 1.87 million viewers and 1.07 million adults 18-49, jumps of a respective 59 and 62 percent -- but it's nowhere in sight of its early numbers.

Returning to 1.8 million viewers on Jan. 17, the decline has been relatively steady. And this most-recent episode, the series' third-lowest-rated, was actually outperformed that night by a FX repeat of Sheen's former series Two and a Half Men. (The heavily syndicated show averaged 806,000 viewers and a 0.4 rating with adults 18-49.)

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Anger Management's unique model is poised to make a lot of money for Lionsgate and Sheen -- with revenue between $350 million and $500 million expected to be generated by the first 100 episodes alone. The series has already sold off-cable syndication rights to Fox Television Stations for a 2014 launch. And FX, if it's disappointed with the numbers, is only paying $600,000 an episode to license the series -- plus it has the contractual right to bury the series on its schedule should ratings become a liability.

So how much can be gained from Anger Management's Big Four dalliance? The half-hour it will occupy, which has aired repeats of Mindy Project for the last two weeks, is averaging 1.3 million viewers and a 0.6 rating among adults 18-49. If Anger Management happens to sustain those numbers, and bring even a fraction of them back to FX, things will look a little less lackluster.

Though the network certainly doesn't seem discouraged by the current ratings. Just last month, FX ordered a George Lopez vehicle from Lionsgate and distributors Debmar-Mercury that follows the same 10-90 model.

Email: Michael.OConnell@THR.com; Twitter: @MikeyLikesTV