DirecTV will rescue "Damages" after low ratings pushed it to the brink of cancellation on FX, which suddenly finds itself without a legitimate Emmy contender.
The legal drama struggled with low ratings throughout its three-season run on FX. Only 975,000 viewers tuned in for the third season finale of the show Jan. 25.
On Monday, DirecTV announced a plan to pick up the show from FX. DirecTV and Sony Pictures Television will produce 20 new episodes of "Damages" to air on DirecTV's The 101 channel over two consecutive seasons in 2011 and 2012.
DirecTV worked out a similar deal for NBC's "Friday Night Lights" in 2008. Under the terms of the "Friday Night Lights" deal, episodes of the show appear first on DirecTV before being rerun on NBC. DirecTV's "Damages" deal calls for the show to be exclusively broadcast on The 101.
Emmy appeal goes a long way to explain DirecTV's interest in "Damages" in spite of the show's ratings woes. The show is nominated for five Primetime Emmys, including an Lead Actress in a Drama Series nod for Glenn Close. "Damages" also racked up nominations in the supporting and guest actor categories.
Without the success of "Damages," FX would have had a pretty weak Emmy haul. FX was nominated for four other Emmys, but those nods came for makeup, music and voiceovers, not the marquee acting and creative categories in which "Damages" excelled.
Passing "Damages" off to DirecTV may have allowed FX to get rid of a weak link ratings-wise, but the cable network will need to find another critical success if it hopes to be seen as a genuine competitor in the original cable series landscape.