TCA: Landgraf Sees Scripted TV Peak in 2017 or 2018

Complete Coverage: 2017 TCA Winter Press Tour

UPDATED: Pasadena, Calif. — FX conducted its annual numbers crunching of original scripted shows and came up with 454 titles for 2016, up from 420 last year and 266 in 2011. Among the 2016 originals, 181 reside on basic cable, 92 on the streaming services and 36 on premium cable.

In 2011, there were 111 basic cable shows, along with just six on the streaming services and 33 on premium cable.

John Landgraf, FX Networks CEO, noted how he initially said, when coining the “peak TV” term, that 2017 would be the peak year before the numbers started to go down. He amended that, saying the number will go up in 2017 and likely 2018 again.

Related: New Home for FX Gumshoe Comedy ‘Archer’

“I’m going to go out on a limb,” he said, “and say 2017 or 2018 is the peak.”

Asked about Apple’s plans to enter the original programming business, Landgraf said he welcomes more competitors, and every new entrant—especially the well funded Silicon Valley ones—pushes FX to up its game. “The bar seems to go up a little bit every year,” he said, for a show to get reviewed and for people to care about it.

FX announced an overall production deal with Atlanta creator Donald Glover, though Glover’s busy schedule—including his work on an upcoming Star Wars film—means no new episodes until 2018.

Related: FX’s Promo Push for ‘Taboo’: Nearly a Quarter Billion TV Ad Impressions in 7 Days

American Crime Story, too, will debut in 2018.

Landgraf said he prefers to give talent time to make their projects as good as possible and to explore other projects, too. “We’ll take it later and take it good,” says Landgraf.

Landgraf dubbed 2016 the “platinum age” of television. He noted FX’s efforts to bring more diversity to the director’s chairs and writers rooms, sharing that white male episodic directors in 2016-2017 are less than half (48%) of the network’s total. “It’s a mandate now in terms of hiring writing staffs,” he said. “It’s a work in progress. I’m not going to tell you the world is is just [as of] now.”

Related: Golden Globes: FX, AMC Clean Up at Globes

FX shared a number of premiere dates, including The Americans March 7 and Archer (on FXX) April 5. Fargo, Landgraf said, looks to be a late April launch.

Landgraf, joined onstage by Nick Grad and Eric Schrier, presidents of original programming, FX Networks and FX Productions, said the launch of FXX felt like a “suicide mission," but is happy to report that the comedy network is in 85 million homes, and “growing unbelievably rapidly.”

He also spoke of FX’s knack, and Ryan Murphy’s knack in particular, for bringing established female film stars to television, starting with Glenn Close on Damages and including Jessica Lange on American Crime Story. He mentioned the “unbelievable” caliber of female actors on new drama Feud, including Lange and Susan Sarandon.

Asked about the downside of hundreds of compelling original shows across television, Landgraf voiced support for a network with broad appeal in an era of personalized news feeds and content. “I don’t like the fact that everyone has their own news,” he said. “I hope not everyone gets their own television show.”

He added, “We want to make commercial shows, good commercial shows, that are part of the conversation.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.