TCA: Peak TV Keeps Peaking, Says FX Chief Landgraf

Complete Coverage: TCA Summer 2016

Just over a year since his prediction about peak TV leveling off this year, John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks, said the total number of scripted shows continues to rise. Landgraf said the number of original scripted shows is around 430-450 currently, and likely to hit 500 next year.

“We could well see the growth trend carry on into the 2017-2018 calendar year,” he said.

"I stick by my prediction that we'll see a peak in the scripted business within the next 2 ½ years," he said. "And then see a decline by 2019 at the latest."

Related: We Are Rebuilding, Says Fox’s Walden

Landgraf envisions the total eventually leveling off around 400.

The exec noted FX’s strong showing in the Emmy nominations, particularly when factoring in that the network’s programming budget, he said, is a third of HBO’s and a sixth of Netflix’s. Netflix, he adds, has 71 scripted original English language shows, not including children’s seriets and documentaries.

Related: 'Empire' Spinoff(s) Could Happen, Says E.P. Chaiken

Story, he says, comes before data and big budgets at FX.

“We at FX always believe in great storytelling,” he says.

Related: ‘The People V. O.J. Simpson’ Grabs TCA Awards Spotlight

Much of the FX executive session centered on Netflix, whether or not the streaming giant was singled out by name. Landgraf wondered how a network with such a vast stable of originals could maintain quality control.

“I continue to believe that there is a greater supply of U.S. television than can be produced profitably given the demand,” he said. “I also believe that there is so much U.S. television we have lost much of the thread of a coherent, collective conversation about what is good, what is very good and what is great.”

Related: FX Renews 'Archer' for Three More Seasons

Growing philosophical, Landgraf voiced concern about entertainment outfits monopolizing too many storytellers, citing several examples of Silicon Valley darlings, such as Uber and PayPal, with a foreboding presence in their category.

“I just think that it’s something we as a society ought to be paying attention to,” he said. “It’s particularly bad for our culture when someone seizes 40-50% of market share within storytelling.”

Related: Sarandos Concedes Peak TV Glut, But Sees Netflix Having an Edge

Landgraf also touted FX’s efforts to get more diverse behind the camera, which started with a letter to FX showrunners pushing for more diverse directors. FX Networks programs are now directed by 51% female or racially diverse individuals. “They have done a fantastic job of upholding extraordinary quality of work we have come to expect from our FX shows and those who run them,” he said.

The exec touted the creativity of new comedies Better Things and Atlanta, among others, coming up on FX. “I think these two comedies are beautiful and brilliant he said. “They’re by filmmakers; they are really, really cinematic.”

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.