FX Is Increasing Original Output Under Disney While Maintaining Its ‘Curatorial Filter’

Chairman John Landgraf says his brand is ‘more valuable than ever’ in peak TV era

FX Networks chairman John Landgraf said moving from Fox to Disney this spring "has gone better than any of us could have hoped for."
Frank Micelotta/FX Networks

FX Networks entered the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in Los Angeles with a new parent company (Disney, which bought most of 21st Century Fox’s assets, including FX Networks, in March), an expanded content slate and a brand that is ‘more valuable than ever,’ said FX Networks chairman John Landgraf.

“The transition has gone better than any of us could have hoped for,” Landgraf told reporters Tuesday, adding that he is “incredibly excited about the road that lies ahead of FX” as part of Disney.

Like several other of its cable rivals for top-tier original content, such as HBO and Showtime, FX is increasing its output of originals under Disney, including a slate of five new nonfiction projects (four docuseries and a documentary film) the network unveiled Tuesday.

“As we enter a new era at Disney, we’re excited to have begun the process of cranking up our creative engines to a higher level than ever before,” said Landgraf, who added that the network will also welcome back a trio of shows after lengthy hiatuses: Atlanta (Donald Glover will film Season 3 and 4 back-to-back next spring), Fargo (Season 4, starring Chris Rock, films this fall) and a third season of American Crime Story, which will focus on the Monica Lewinsky-Bill Clinton scandal that led to the former president’s impeachment in 1998.

However, “we are going to remain measured in our approach,” said Landgraf. “For some, ‘move fast and break things’ might be a good strategy, but making as much programming as we can, as fast as we can, has never worked for FX.”

"For some, ‘move fast and break things’ might be a good strategy, but making as much programming as we can, as fast as we can, has never worked for FX."
-FX Networks chairman John Landgraf

Even as its output expands, every single FX original “has been put through the FX curatorial filter, because we believe that the filter of a brand will become even more valuable to consumers as they struggle to navigate the deluge of program offerings in the peak TV era,” said Landgraf.

According to FX’s research team, 335 scripted series have aired through June, a 5% year-over-year increase that, if it holds, would put the full-year total at 520 (last year’s scripted tally was 496).

In the peak TV area, “there’s a lot of really good stuff that just gets swamped by the volume,” said Landgraf. “Quality gets overwhelmed with mediocrity.”

That makes brands who are a “focused beacon of quality”—like FX and rival HBO, said Landgraf—“more valuable than ever.”

By honing and maintaining the FX brand, “we’re trying to signal to the audience, ‘We can help you cut down the morass of an infinite number of programs and find stuff that’s really worth your time,’” said Landgraf.

The record pace for original scripted series this year will only increase as more upstart streaming services, including Disney+ and Apple TV+, roll out even more new shows during the next several months.

“I don’t know whether every streaming service will work. I think I feel pretty good about the ones that are run by the company we’re now part of,” said Landgraf, who noted that during Tuesday’s earnings call, Disney CEO Bob Iger said the company will bundle together its three OTT offerings—Hulu, ESPN+ and the upcoming Disney+—for $12.99 per month. “That’s an incredible value, and it’s an incredible amount of quality and content when you put it all together.”

During Disney’s earnings call, Iger also said the company will move content from platform to platform and suggested one scenario under which “we’d be making FX shows for Hulu that might premiere on Hulu but ultimately end up on the linear channels.”

Landgraf said he “can’t elaborate” on Iger’s comments about FX and Hulu, other than to note that Iger “has said repeatedly that the FX programming and the FX brand, which will continue to be made for the FX linear channels and for our basic cable networks, will also begin to support and populate Hulu.” As those details are sorted out, “we’ll be able to give you more insight and clarity as time goes by.”

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