TCA: FX's Landgraf Hopes to Capture More Viewers With Suite of Three Channels

CEO says network has to 'grow into a heavyweight' to compete with AMC, HBO
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Coverage: TCA Summer Press Tour 2013

Los Angeles -- On Sept. 2, FX Networks will launch the new
channel FXX, and at the TCA press tour on Friday, network topper John Landgraf
expressed hope that the new suite of three channels split up by demographic would
increase the potency of its overall brand.

"What we felt is, well, if we were going to have multiple channels -- and
there were a number of reasons why we felt we needed to have multiple
channels -- we wanted them all to support one brand," said Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks and
FX Productions, during his executive session. "I don't really believe it's possible to be all things to all people in
this marketplace. I think it's such a fragmented marketplace with such
micro targeting that to try to be simultaneously older and younger, I
think, has a tendency to diffuse the brand rather than crystallize it...I think what we hope with our brand is we'll be able to capture people
when they're young and keep them in our brand as they move through their
life."

Unlike AMC Networks, which has a suite of disparate brands,
FX is taking more of an HBO approach to unite FX, FXX and FXM under one brand to
create more shelf space to compete with the other top cable brands.

"I just look at the potency of HBO and the potency of Showtime and the
potency of AMC and what I believe will be a very potent brand in
Netflix...So I think we just decided, well, look, we've
been punching above our weight for a long time," Landgraf said. "Our management was very
supportive in giving us more resources and letting us double down. And
we said, you know what, we're going to have to try to grow into a
heavyweight if we want to really be a top, top brand in what is sure to
be an incredibly competitive future."

His goal is to increase from 13 scripted series on FX now to
25 scripted series across the three networks in the next few years to ensure
the networks aren't depleted in the process.

"I think there would be cannibalization if we were just taking our
existing resources and spreading them out across more shelf space. But we made a decision to double down on our resources,"

Landgraf said, adding that FX now has more than twice as much in development
than in the past and is licensing two-thirds of Hollywood blockbuster titles.

Other highlights from FX's executive session included:

  • Landgraf agreed with a comment from Showtime
    entertainment president David Nevins earlier this week that TV may have reached
    its limit on anti-heroes. "I can't imagine a protagonist darker than [Breaking
    Bad
    's] Walter White. I think that's the end of the road for out-darking
    each other," he said. "I think one of the reasons we went a little bit the opposite way with Justified, where, I think, the protagonist is a flawed hero, and if you
    look at The Bridge, those two protagonists are flawed heroes, is that I
    think we felt like, well, this nuclear arms race of darkness has ended."
  • Billy Bob Thornton will star in FX's 10-episode Fargo adaptation.
    Landgraf said no characters from the original movie are in the limited-series
    version, and that writer Noah Hawley has "managed somehow to invent a new version
    of Fargo that is really its own thing but also is true to the spirit of the
    original." While the limited series means it's a close-ended story where
    characters would not continue season to season, Landgraf said there is the
    possibility Fargo could continue as an anthology like American Horror
    Story
    .
  • Speaking of limited series, Langraf said one of the reasons to be in that
    business is because it doesn't constrain storytelling to a form. "What if a television show could be just the length that is optimal for
    that story, six hours, eight hours, ten hours, 12, 26, 39, 65?" he said. "So you
    didn't have to compact it any more than you wanted to and you didn't
    have to extend it any more than you wanted to. You could make it
    optimal. " FX's upcoming project The Strain is another
    example, where creator Guillermo del Toro pitched it as three to five seasons,
    "no less, no more."
  • Landgraf was one of the first TV executives to call out Netflix for not
    releasing its viewership figures, but he seems to have softened on taking the company to task now that it has released four original series. "If you were the mayor of television, look, I think all competitive
    industries should have third party should have their verified third
    party information, whether that's a sports contest having a referee or
    the stock market having the SEC," he said. "But I'm not the mayor of television.
    In fact, there is no mayor of television. So I don't really get to
    decide what Netflix does and neither do you...I don't think any of us know who's watching their shows, but I know that
    they're pretty good and I think in and of itself is something to be
    comended."

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