From Basic Cable to Global Brand, John Landgraf Has Big Plans for FX

The evolution of a TV mainstay

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As he approaches nearly 20 years with FX, John Landgraf continues to break new ground.

In his time as head of the network, FX has evolved from a basic cable channel that aired a handful of live shows and classic TV returns, into a global programming brand with a premium cable networks, a streaming service and some of the most cutting edge programming.

Now a part of Disney, FX aims to be a global brand, along the lines of other Disney IP like Star Wars and Marvel, and Landgraf remains the architect.

“It’s been a great year — in so many ways, it’s been the realization of a dream,” Landgraf told Adweek’s Jason Lynch at the Convergent TV West Summit in Los Angeles Wednesday. “We were a basic cable network, and we tried to figure out how to create an identity, and we decided we were going to try to invest in shows that would stand the test of time and see if we could aggregate them into something that could be called a brand. It released us from the notion that we’re a location and allowed us to be what we’ve been for a long time, a presenter, a studio that makes things, and markets and publicizes.” 

Recalibrating the FX universe 

Landgraf said positioning FX as a global brand is key to helping it stand out from the crowd and provide easy viewing access to consumers and aligning with Hulu, 66% of which is owned by Disney (Comcast holds the other 33%, though Disney chief Bob Chapek intends to fully own Hulu by 2024).

“As a basic cable network, a lot of our content was sold to Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, and other channels,” he said. “The first thing Hulu was able to do for us was regather about 2,500 episodes going all the way back to The Shield. That immediately crystalized what we’d been doing for 20 years, that’s a really, really meaningful library of shows, and it creates circulation and a place from which to launch new shows.” 

Housing all of its content under a single brand has paid dividends for FX. 

“We’re seeing all-time records broken by our shows in terms of ratings because we were able to gather everything together,” he said. “I think linear channels have become challenging in that regard; they’re not necessarily the best place for a brand. I think a streaming platform provides a better environment.” 

Producing great content, curating shows audiences want and focusing on quality over quantity are not trends, they’re mainstays of the future of TV that Landgraf believes a lot more networks and platforms will start to focus on. 

“I think the whole industry is going to go through a fascinating recalibration now in the sense that everything was about subscribers, and now it’s about operating income, the level of engagement with subscribers and profit margins,” he said. I think nearly 600 scripted shows is more than any human being needs or wants. At FX, we’ll try to make sure every effect counts and that everything is as good as can be.”