10:44am PT by Michael O'Connell, Marisa Guthrie
FX's John Landgraf Says Scripted Surge Isn't Slowing, TV Losing "Coherent" Conversation
"I wrongly predicted that we'd hit the peak in 2015 or 2016," said Landgraf, noting that the number of English-language adult scripted series in the U.S. will reach as high as 450 by year's end — with current trends placing the 2017 total closer to 500 shows. "It now seems clear that, at a minimum, the peak will be in calendar 2017 — and there is enough inertial momentum here that we could well see the growth trend carrying over into the 2018 calendar year."
Noting that the surge in TV is still, in most cases, profitable, Landgraf insisted that the biggest problem, as he sees it, is how the volume has confused the TV discussion. "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," he noted, though he started his presentation by boasting about the network's recent Emmy love (especially for The Americans).
Netflix and other streamers were credited (or blamed) for the continued surge. Outfits such as Hulu and Amazon have more than doubled scripted launches compared to the same time period last year. And while Landgraf remained diplomatic during his presentation, he was a bit more candid about his take during the Q&A. "They can't double and double and double, because then the entire planet's surface would be covered by Netflix television shows in 20 years," he said. "We're at or near the capacity of what we can pay attention to. You could give me all the money in the world, and I could not make an organization that could supervise 71 shows and give them the level of attention we do." (He added that he thinks the FX suite would cap out just north of 20 series.)
Landgraf also made a point of addressing the network's efforts to put fewer white men behind the camera, sounded off on series past (Terriers) and present (American Horror Story) and addressed the cannibalized limited series category at the Emmys. Here are the main takeaways:
American Horror Story Promos Are Intentionally Misleading
Anthologies Make Sense for Netflix Deals
The decision to license The People v. O.J. Simpson to Netflix raised some eyebrows, given Landgraf’s critique of Netflix and his general mandate to own and distribute his own content. But he noted that the deal was "phenomenal" from a financial standpoint. "Ultimately, running a business is a practical process as much as it is a philosophical one," he said. "It was an unprecedented deal.” Landgraf reasoned that the free-standing structure of American Crime, which is co-produced by FX Productions and 20th TV, also factored into the decision to license it to Netflix. "These are all free-standing seasons,” he said. "When we market Hurricane Katrina: American Crime Story, it really won’t matter whether the audience has watched O.J. When I look at all of the various factors, ultimately I thought on a practical level, and many of my colleagues agreed, that this was the right thing to do. So we did it."
Terriers Fans Might Want to Sit Down
It was only said in passing, but Landgraf definitely gave hope to fans of short-lived critical favorite Terriers when asked if it would have had better odds of survival in the current TV climate. The answer was yes. "I'm not saying we'll never do a reboot," he added. "Because I guess we will at one point."
See the below charts, courtesy of FX Networks, for the current breakdown of U.S. scripted series — and how the numbers compare to past years.