2008 CABLE SHOW: FX’s Landgraf Renews Contract

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New Orleans -- FX Networks president and general manager John Landgraf has reached a new multiyear contract to remain at News Corp.’s flagship cable entertainment channel, FX, where he looks to maintain its success with scripted dramas, find more original comedies and expand its new-media offerings.

With his three-year renewal announced Monday, Landgraf will retain responsibility for the entertainment and business operations of FX; the recently introduced FX HD; Fox Movie Channel and also FX Productions, an in-house studio that Landgraf and his team created in 2005.

During Landgraf’s tenure FX has attracted top acting talent and enjoyed success with a number of edgy original hour-long series that have often pushed the envelope in terms of violence and sexual topics, winning critical acclaim in the process. Those dramas -- shows such as its first breakout --The Shield, Nip/Tuck, Rescue Me and Damages -- have branded the network as an alternative to broadcast-network fare.

“We really feel we’ve reached a maturity for dramas,” Landgraf said. “We’re pretty much there with dramas….Our goal in original programming is really to maintain the position we have.”

One of his challenges this year is to keep that success going, in part by finding a replacement for The Shield, which will kick off its seventh – and final – season in September. Landgraf is hoping that one of FX’s own productions, Sons of Anarchy, will “capture and appeal to” the audience that was devoted to The Shield.

Sons of Anarchy, about a motorcycle gang in northern California, has been described as “Easy Rider meets The Sopranos,” according to Landgraf.

He said FX this year will launch a companion comedy for another FX production, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He’s hoping to find hit shows in the comedy genre, as FX has done with dramas. FX has enough episodes of It’s Always Sunny to syndicate the show, according to Landgraf.

The network also plans to beef up its new-media offerings, he said. For example, FX has been busy trying to secure on-demand rights to the original shows it doesn’t own, according to Landgraf. So later this year, FX expects to be able to make its original shows available on VOD, possibly in the fall.

FX is also revamping its Web site, with plans to bolster it with original content and streamed video, Landgraf said.

Landgraf joined FX as president of Entertainment in January 2004 and became president and general manager of FX Networks in May 2005. During his tenure, the network has achieved all-time highs in total viewers and also its target audience of adults 18 to 49.

As FX has gained popularity among young adults, Landgraf began tapping into emerging-content venues, creating mini-seasons of core franchises Rescue Me and The Shield for VOD, and helping to launch a new HD version of FX in last October 2007.

FX currently has eight original series on its primetime schedule, including six original dramas, a record for cable. It most recent new series Damages, starring Glenn Close, earned more Golden Globe Award nominations – four -- than any show on television, and she took the Globe for best actress in drama. Damages was produced in association with FX Productions.

Close was slated to appear at Fox’s booth at The Cable Show ‘08 Monday between 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.

 FX and FX Productions have benefited from Landgraf’s ability to attract high-profile acting talent to FX original series, including Close, Forest Whitaker, Minnie Driver, Eddie Izzard, Danny DeVito, Courteney Cox and Andre Braugher.

Before joining FX, Landgraf was president of Jersey Television, which he co-founded in 1999 along with DeVito. Jersey Television developed more than 50 primetime cable and broadcast drama and comedy projects, including the critically acclaimed series Karen Sisco and Reno 911!.

From 1994 to 1999, Landgraf was vice president of primetime series at NBC, helping to develop or oversee shows including The West Wing, Profiler,Suddenly Susan, ER and Friends. He began his television career at Sarabande Productions as director of development in 1988, rising to the level of senior vice president.

FX has bought s series of theatrical packages in the past year that Landgraf expects will boost its ratings, along with its original fare. He added that no decision has been made yet on renewing the original dramas The Riches and Dirt.

 For more news from NCTA's The Cable Show '08, click here.

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