John Landgraf Eyes FX Growth in Variety, Late-Night, Docs, Other Programming Arenas

John Landgraf - 2018 Winter TCA Tour Day 2 - Getty - H 2018
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John Landgraf typically spends his semi-annual visit with TV reporters poring over some of the more astonishing statistics about the unrelenting surge in programming — but, on Friday morning, he was primarily focused on ways he planned to grow his own network.

On the very Television Critics Association's press tour stage where he once unofficially coined the term "Peak TV," the FX Networks and FX Productions CEO casually detailed a desire to grow his own network much in the same ways HBO and Netflix have boosted their platforms. "I'm excited about variety, comedy specials, late-night and all the genres of documentary," he said. "I believe application of FX brand sensibilities for all those."

His announcement of the move comes as TV Academy members mull 50 nominations for FX projects. And while Landgraf expressed his pleasure with those accolades, particular for comedy favorite Atlanta, he noted that the growing margin of Emmy wealth between his network and HBO and Netflix has more to do with quantity than quality. Landgraf pointed out that the 10 FX programs nominated are spread across the three arenas of drama, comedy and limited series. 

"We're going to have to produce programming in additional categories." he said. "We're excited about making our own contributions in these genres."

Boosting offerings comes as FX continues to invest in its own streaming platform and, pending regularity approval, waits to see how it will fit in the Walt Disney Company. Landgraf appeared hopeful that the new push would be in line with his new parent company. "I can't say it's related to the Disney acquisition," he added, "because they don't own us yet and I don't have any marching orders."

Another recent merger, AT&T's absorption of Time-Warner's various properties, has seen FX competitor HBO also announce an effort to grow its output to compete with Netflix. Whether the pay cabler can do that without losing its prestige programming identity has been among the bigger industry conversations of the summer. Landgraf balked at growing in any way resembling Netflix.

"You can't get infinitely bigger without diffusing the brand," he said. "[Netflix's] business model is to be all things to all people. In the context of that, they're making HBO and FX programming but all other kinds too. I don't see that as our goal."

In other words, don't expect to see an FX take on The Bachelor or The Amazing Race. But do plan to see orders similar to The Weekly. The network's upcoming docuseries collaboration with The New York Times, based on the newspaper's popular podcast of the same name, was brought up multiple times.

Also stressed at the morning gathering was FX's continued push for representation on and behind the camera. Landgraf offered up promising statistics on directors (now just 51 percent white men for 2018), performers (36 percent non-white) and writers (31 percent women). One area where they are still considerably lacking, however, is among top-tier writers. Those at the "showrunner" level and just below are still primarily male and white.

But it was volume where Landraf again landed before wrapping up his session. The executive, bemoaning the saturation of narrative content, pointed to a recent Guardian article that he said summarized his concerns.

"I don't want more to be everything," Landgraf cautioned. "I don't want to take over the world."