FX Chief John Landgraf on Refusing Advertising From Netflix: "We're Fighting for Our Lives"

John Landgraf - FOX/FX portion of the 2018 Winter Television Critics Association - Getty-H 2019
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Speaking at USC, the network exec painted a dark picture of the competitive environment.

Citing Disney's Hulu, ESPN+ and impending Disney+ services, FX chairman John Landgraf on Saturday told an audience of hundreds of entertainment lawyers that his parent company was well equipped to compete with streaming behemoth Netflix, but he added a stark cautionary note as he explained why his network refuses to accept advertising from its competitor.

"FX has had the most reach of any cable network in the last five years," Landgraf said at the Institute on Entertainment Law and Business, hosted by USC Gould School of Law and the Beverly Hills Bar Association. "I would prefer not to share a scarce resource in an environment where we're fighting for our lives."

The exec added that over the last year, FX made 13 shows, one hundred percent of which ended up on ten-best lists, while HBO made 70, with 29 percent earning such accolades, and Netflix several hundred, with 12 percent yielding ten-best laurels. But those lower batting averages multiplied by higher volume means that the respective premium network and streamer ended up with more shows on such lists. 

"It's very hard to compete when you only have 13 at bats," said Landgraf. "It's pretty stressful. You need to take risks. "

On a different subject, the network chairman disclosed a previously unreleased statistic: FX's writing staffs are now almost 60 percent female or people of color. That comes in the wake of Landgraf dramatically diversifying the network's directors several years ago.