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Brands Matter More Than Ever

SAN FRANCISCO — As over-the-top options have exploded and expanded to create a TV universe comprised of more than 400 scripted shows, network brands have never been more valuable, the co-presidents of original programming at FX Networks said.

“In a way, as programmers, we’re marketing a brand,” Nick Grad said in an afternoon keynote discussion about premium, original programming. “I think that brand has a lot of value in this climate … brand is more important than it’s ever been.”

A network’s brand, he added, “is a real asset to have in order to cut through the clutter.”

Fellow co-president of original programming at FX Networks and FX Productions Eric Schrier amplified and refined their CEO John Landgraf’s statement last August that “There is simply too much television.”

“There is a lot more good television getting in the way of great television,” Schrier said. “It is as difficult to find a great television show now as it was 10 years, 15 years ago … It’s still a rare, hard thing to find.”

The proliferation of content being pumped out by OTT competition requires programmers to “take bigger swings at the plate,” Schrier added. “You also have to try to do more unique and distinctive programming in this landscape.”

FX, he said, tried and succeeded to break new ground with its 10-episode series, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, which sought to offer a new perspective on a well-known event. “I think that’s why it caught on,” Schrier said. “People felt like it was something new.”

The FX executives also acknowledged that they are now in a business in which a show can be successful in a number of ways, and not be judged solely by ratings.

“A home run is … both a huge critical hit and a huge ratings hit,” Grad said, warning that focusing on ratings too much can cause programmers to micromanage their talent.

They also discussed a collaborative process at FX that allows for disagreement but one that ultimately finds common ground before moving to the next phase.

“We go back to the creators with one point of view,” Schrier said, noting that is a rarity in the TV business.

“We make it a priority to be together enough to really all be kind of all of one mind,” Grad said. “Sometimes we’ll disagree … but we’ll figure it out behind closed doors.”

Giving creators notes that present contradictory views can drive content creators crazy, the executives said.

“They can’t reconcile it, and it creates a lot of extra work, and they just get burned out,” Grad said.