When it comes to branding, few networks have ever done it as well as the now-Discovery Communications-owned Food and HGTV channels. No matter which show is currently on the air, no matter which personality is appearing, viewers know what they are getting. While the specific focus of each network may undergo regularly tweakings, they both have a consistent feel that offers fans a predictable safe harbor in a TV world filled with choices. Their branding is so strong the two networks have been able to roll out network-branded consumer lines ranging from paint to cookie sheets.
It's a difficult accomplishment to pull off in a time when most networks are looking for the best show, no matter whether or not it fits in with the rest of their network schedule. Successfully branding a network requires both a creative focus from executives and the ability to greenlight shows that seem to logically fit together. Think of it as the Motown approach to running a TV network. At its creative peak, the music label Motown had a sound that spanned a wide range of artists. But there was a logical connection to each release that was so powerful fans would buy ever new single, even if they didn't know the artist. Buyers trusted the vision of the label and that's as powerful a case of branding as you can get.
I'd argue that of all the scripted-centric TV networks FX may have one of the strongest brands in the industry. Their programs span a wide range of topics and categories, from "Louie" to "American Horror Story." But there is a consistency of vision that makes viewers of the network likely to at least sample any new program. That type of creative branding is one of the many reasons why FX has such a strong track record launching new shows. Viewers trust the vision of the network and have formed a bond with the FX brand.
Given that bond, I'm surprised the network hasn't worked harder to take advantage of the connection it has with viewers. It's a rare accomplishment and in an increasingly fractured media environment, it makes sense to reach out to the network's super fans in a clever way.
Which gets me to the headline of this story. Why isn't FX selling a bi-monthly FX-branded subscription box? For those of you who aren't familiar with the concept, customers pay a monthly or bi-monthly charge to receive a box of swag, samples and other exclusive goodies.
You can get subscription boxes targeted at everyone from makeup and home beauty enthusiasts to Anime fans. But what all of these subscription services have in common is that they are a way to reach the hardcore fans of your product. And they're paying for the privilege of being the object of your marketing.
So what would an FX subscription box look like? The magic price point seems to be about $20 per package and for that price, you could put together a nice selection of exclusive swag and insider info about the network's shows. An exclusive "Atlanta" t-shirt or "American Horror Story" bobblehead. A poster you can only get with the subscription package. A DVD with behind-the-scenes footage of an upcoming show or a personalized autographed photo.cThere are a lot of options here and while the initial wrangling to create the products will likely be a bit harrowing, the end results will be worth it.
The biggest caveat with a subscription box is the obvious one. You can't scrimp on the contents, you can't just collect a bunch of crap that's available in stores and think customers will be happy. These are the people most likely to watch the network and you just don't want them satisfied. You want them excited about the programming, so much so that they'll help create organic buzz for the network.
I would subscribe to an FX subscription box. And I'm generally a cheapskate, so if I'm buying in, you know there's a legitimate market for this idea.
Let's make this happen.