America's Got Cable: A&E vs. FX

By Price Peterson

Aug 04, 2011

Welcome to another skull-stealing week of America's Got Cable: The Search for the Nation's Finest Basic Cable Channel!

OLD BUSINESS: Looks like we've discovered a second, more brutal meaning of the term HGTV'd! Congratulations goes to...


It was unanimous. Oh well, HSN will just have to console itself with BILLIONS of dollars. These comments were priceless, though:

CrimeDramaBee: "HGTV because one time I watched it and I learned how to fix something. I don't remember what it was that needed fixing, or if it really did need fixing in the first place. Nor did I care."

KevinG87: "I don't watch HGTV, but seriously, putting HSN against ANYTHING is beyond insane. It wastes space." [Ed. note: Good to know!]

lynna12000: "HSN couldn't beat the WORST SyFy movie of the week." [Ed. note: I don't know, I have to disagree with you there.]

NEW BUSINESS: Okay, no more joking—THIS is a matchup.


Background: For better or worse, A&E;'s come a long way from its humble beginnings as an arts channel that aired for two hours a night on Nickelodeon. It first launched in 1984 as the Arts and Entertainment Channel and was intended to be a commercial-supported competitor to PBS. In 1985 it spun off from Nickelodeon into its own channel, and up until 2002 aired mostly high-brow programming that was heavily stacked with BBC productions, Biography series, miniseries adaptations of classic literature, and such. Then in 2002 it got a low-culture makeover when it summarily canceled many of its stodgier shows and unveiled a reality TV-heavy slate that included things like Dog the Bounty Hunter, Criss Angel MindFreak and Gene Simmons Family Jewels. Recently A&E; has begun to get back into scripted series with things like Breakout Kings and The Glades.

Original Programming: In addition to the above, A&E; is also the home of Storage Wars, Billy the Exterminator, Beyond Scared Straight, The First 48, Steven Seagal: Lawman, and most significantly the addiction shows Intervention, Heavy, and Hoarders.

Reruns: A&E; has been home to various crime procedurals since before its reality TV makeover—particularly Law & Order. These days it's more likely to air reruns of Criminal Minds, CSI: Miami, and especially The Sopranos.

Why It's The Best: For a schedule filled to the brim with guilty pleasures, I admit that it all somehow seems more palatable when stamped with the A&E; logo.

Why It's The Worst: You know there's a problem when the USA Network has classier programming than you do.


Background: FX has one of the weirdest beginnings of any corporate-owned network. Back in 1994, it began broadcasting from a single apartment in New York as basically a cable-access-style network full of live programming and internet-fueled viewer feedback (think G4 meets Reality Bites). Much of the broadcast day was full of in-house talk shows hosted by people like Jeff Probst, Orlando Jones, or Phil Keoghan, and the rest of the schedule consisted of reruns of Fox shows. When that format didn't work out, the channel was relaunched with more of a Spike-like dude feel, and the channel secured broadcast rights to NASCAR and tons of MLB coverage. But FX truly began to come into its own around 2002, when it debuted The Shield and later Nip/Tuck, making it the go-to cable network for edgy, high-quality scripted programming.

Original Programming: In addition to stalwarts It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Rescue Me, FX's newer hits include animated comedy Archer, live-action comedies Louie, Wilfred, and The League—plus huge hits Justified and Sons of Anarchy. And the upcoming Ryan Murphy series American Horror Story (hi, Connie Britton!) looks pretty great too.

Reruns: Too bad FX's reruns aren't nearly so hot... unless you like That '70s Show (which also airs on every other channel) or you already crave the Charlie Sheen days of Two and a Half Men. For folks with slightly better taste, you're also bound to catch reruns of '90s semi-classics The Practice or Spin City (hi, Connie Britton!).

Why It's the Best: For a network that could have gone the crass-and-inessential Spike route, it's amazing that FX now rivals HBO in quality entertainment.

Why It's the Worst:: FX can sometimes get a little cancel-happy on shows that probably don't deserve it (RIP Terriers and Lights Out).

Official Verdict: You're doing it wrong, A&E.; Hooray for FX!

But now it's your turn! COMMENT BELOW and tell us your verdict: A&E; or FX? And make your case! What do you love or hate about each channel?

Click below to see the full tournament bracket:

Want to catch up on past battles? Head over to the America's Got Cable archives.

Follow writer Price Peterson on Twitter: @pricepeterson

  • Comments (43)
Add a Comment
In reply to :
  • agonizedearth Dec 03, 2011


  • Sweep61880 Aug 11, 2011

    I'm a media buyer for national cable and I sent a link to this article around the office. A lot of things go into what an advertisers perception of the "best" network. Quality original programming, solid ratings, and fair and consistent pricing. Most importantly, ability to be adaptable to advertiser needs. I know everyone pooh pooh's it, but really that is what pays the bills. Product integrations and marketing solutions that convey brand messaging in the voice of the network is vital. In this case, FX is able to do all of these things efficiently. A&E; pulls consistently higher ratings across all demos, but approaches things (including programming choices) with more of an "old school" mentality.

  • ll-essy Aug 08, 2011

    FX, because of The Shield and Justified

  • Mavigirl202 Aug 08, 2011

    You forgot to mention Parking Wars, the best show on A

  • chas031 Aug 08, 2011

    While FX may win on the strength of pure entertainment, what A&E; has for REAL reality goes beyond ratings and actual raw life. FX gets my vote for FAILING to realize a gem in the making with Terriers. Folded to numbers game of ratings. Ratings based on 60's technology!!

    A&E; gets my vote

  • Lance_Corporal Aug 08, 2011

    I have to vote for FX. Archer is so good it's almost like I don't have Cancer.

  • ClassieMaeC Aug 08, 2011

    FX wins hands down. What are my reasons: Sons of Anarchy & Justified.

  • kopeckee Aug 07, 2011

    FX .....

  • apple2424 Aug 07, 2011

    FX they, aren't scared to be edgy.

  • BethanyHamil Aug 06, 2011

    About 15 years ago Jaguar used to advertise on A&E.; Kinda not the Hoarders audience now is it?

  • See More Comments (30)