When The Walt Disney Co. acquired 21 Century Fox, there were questions about how a grown-up brand like FX would fit in with Mickey, Luke, Buzz and Captain America.
At a time when attention is shifting from cable networks to streaming networks, the FX brand has found a home with Disney’s Hulu, and FX chairman John Landgraf seems to think that a good thing.
During Disney's investor day focusing on its direct-to-consumer strategy, Landgraf, who coined the term “Peak TV” to describe the abundance of content available to viewers, talked about how FX was adjusting to the new media world.
Landgraf said that over 20 years, the FX brand has moved from being a location on a cable channel guide to a destination for exceptionally compelling original stories and characters through a string of shows like The Shield, Nip/Tuck, Sons of Anarchy, American Horror Story, The Americans and Better Things.
Those shows have generated remarkably high scores with critics and viewers. Landgraf said that FX shows averaged a seven and a half among IMDb users, while 74% of FX shows did 80% or better on Rotten Tomatoes. FX shows average 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, he said.
But these days, “linear channels are just not the optimal location for a couple of thousand great episodes of television,” Landgraf said. “And that fact caused many FX original series to be licensed and scattered across numerous other platforms, sometimes resulting in confusion as to which brand was actually responsible for fostering these beloved shows,” he said.
“But along came Disney, which acquired both the FX and a majority stake in Hulu and then enhanced the growth of FX as a brand by creating an FX-branded presence on Hulu, which has now become the singular U.S. streaming location at which the past, present and future of FX’s great shows could be gathered," he said.
Landgraf skipped a bit of history. FX bought the rights to nearly all of its shows and launched a subscription service FX Plus in 2017. It was shut down in 2019 after FX was acquired by Disney so that the shows could be available through Hulu.
Being part of Hulu has helped FX’s shows. “The average audience of FX scripted series launched on Hulu has increased 120% over their audience on our channels and VOD site alone--120%. And with the expansion of distribution that Hulu provides, every single one of FX’s returning series has posted year-over-year viewership increases,” Landgraf said.
FX has also begun creating original FX series that appear exclusively on Hulu.
“So the addition of the FX brand has significantly expanded the audience reach for FX and added to the outstanding results Hulu has already been achieving with their own excellent original programming but the best is still to come,” Landgraf said. Because of production delays due to COVID-19 the full benefit of FX's hit current programming has yet to be realized. However, most [00:15:59] of our shows are back up and running and we expect to begin rolling out shows again early next year.”
Among the shows coming back is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which was renewed for four more year, making it the longest running live-action sitcom in television history, surpassing Ozzie & Harriet.
FX will be making more shows now that it’s aligned with Disney and Hulu, Landgraf said.
“The FX brand will quickly be able to double our output making and marketing about 30 original programs each year,” he said. “While I know that doesn't sound like a huge number in the air of peak TV, I assure you that these 30 shows will punch vastly above their numerical weight just as FX originals always have because we will strive as always to ensure that every single one of them will be excellent,”
Among the series on the way is a series based on the Alien films that will be set on Earth. Another is a two-season series that will trace the rise of the Rolling Stones as the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band from the early 60s to 1972. The Stones are participating in making the show. FX is also working on a remake of Shogun.
Landgraf told analysts that making all those shows would prove to be a good investment.
“Today's new programming is tomorrow's perpetual library, because of this FX and all of Disney's many brands can create incredible long-term value for fans and shareholders because we know that streaming subscribers will now be able easily and conveniently find, treasure and share their favorite series and characters,” he said.
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.