TCA: FX's Landgraf Hopes to Capture More Viewers with Three-Channel Suite

CEO Says Network Has to 'Grow into a Heavyweight' to Compete with AMC, HBO

Los Angeles - On Sept. 2, FX Networks will launch the new channel FXX, and network topper John Landgraf, speaking at the TCA press tour here Friday, expressed hope that the new suite of three channels split up by demographic would increase the potency of its overall brand.

"What we felt was if we're going to have multiple channels, we wanted them all to support one brand," said Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks and FX Productions, during his executive session. "I don't believe it's possible to be all things to all people. What we hope with the brand is to be able to capture people when they're young and keep them in our brand as they go through their life."

Unlike AMC Networks, which has a suite of disparate brands, FX is taking more of an HBO approach. But the goal with FX, FXX and FXM, he said, is to create more shelf space to compete with the other top cable brands.

"I look at potency of HBO, Showtime, AMC... We've been punching above our weight for a long time, we're going to have to try and grow into a heavyweight if we want to be a top, top brand," Landgraf said.

His goal is to increase from 13 scripted series on FX now to 25 scripted series across the three networks in the next few years to ensure the networks aren't depleted in the process.

"I think there would be cannibalization if we were just taking existing resources and spreading them out over more shelf space," Landgraf said, adding that FX now has more than twice as much in development than in the past and is licensing two-thirds of Hollywood blockbuster titles.

Other highlights from FX's executive session included:

  • Landgraf agreed with a comment from Showtime entertainment president David Nevins earlier this week that TV may have reached its limit on anti-heroes. "I can't imagine a protagonist darker than [Breaking Bad's] Walter White. I think that's the end of the road for out-darking each other."
  • Billy Bob Thornton will star in FX's 10-episode Fargo adaptation. Landgraf said no characters from the original movie are in the limited-series version, and that writer Noah Hawley has "managed somehow to invent a new version of Fargo that is really its own thing, but true to the spirit of the original." While the limited series means it's a close-ended story where characters would not continue season to season, Landgraf said there is the possibility Fargo could continue as an anthology like American Horror Story.
  • Speaking of limited series, Langraf said one of the reasons to be in that business is because it doesn't constrain storytelling to a form. "What if a television show was just the length that is optimal for that story? And you didn't have to compact it or distend it any more than you wanted it to?" he said. "One of the reasons Louie is the best comedy on TV right now is he's thrown out the rules." FX's upcoming project The Strain is another example, where creator Guillermo del Toro pitched it as three to five seasons, "no less, no more."
  • Landgraf was one of the first TV executives to call out Netflix for not releasing its viewership figures, but he seems to have softened on the matter since the company has released four original series. "Netflix is taking the position on some level that numbers don't matter at all or are privileged information. If I were the mayor of television, I think all platforms should have third-party verified information," he said. "But you can look at the quality of the output -- you have to give Netflix a good nod. Do I wish they were releasing their info? Yeah I do. I don't think I can make them and neither can you."