Peak TV Is Still ‘a Ways’ From Peaking, FX’s John Landgraf Says

319 scripted programs have aired this year, up 5% year over year

FX Networks CEO John Landgraf coined the term "Peak TV" exactly three years ago. Getty Images
Headshot of Jason Lynch

Three years after FX Networks CEO John Landgraf coined the term “peak TV” to describe the overwhelming amount of content available on broadcast, cable and streaming platforms, the exec said the deluge of scripted series will continue from some time.

Landgraf initially predicted that peak TV would have peaked by 2015 or 2016, but that was “wrong,” he said today at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in L.A. “It’s a ways away.”

So far, 319 scripted programs have aired this year, a 5 percent increase from 305 at this time last year, Landgraf said. While there have been year-over-year declines from broadcast (down 5 percent, from 120 to 114) and basic cable (an 11 percent decrease from 114 to 102), that was more than made up by massive increases in streaming (up 46 percent, from 52 to 76) and premium cable (a 42 percent increase from 19 to 27).

And those numbers will continue to skyrocket “as long as the competition is red-hot” and more companies like Disney enter the direct-to-consumer space, Landgraf said.

“The number of new series announced, including by us, makes me suspect the Golden Age of Television has been the Gilded Age of Television,” said Landgraf on the “insane” volume of TV.

In 2015, Landgraf said there was “simply too much television,” but now he thinks the problem is that there’s “too much narrative” on TV, which is overwhelming for viewers. Now, “everything feels vaguely familiar to them. That’s something we struggle with,” he said.

FX is also looking to increase its TV output—not in scripted but in other genres. It will air The Weekly, a weekly documentary news show produced by The New York Times, and is also looking to branch into variety comedy, late-night and other documentary forms.

“I genuinely believe there’s an application of the FX brand sensibility to all those,” Landgraf said. “We’ll be doing it selectively, in a way that strives to uphold the quality of FX.”

Landgraf admitted that part of his interest in branching into other genres is to help FX close its Emmy nomination gap with Netflix and HBO, both of which received double the 50 nominations FX got this year.

The strategy has nothing to do with the pending Disney-Fox deal, which will see FX Networks move under Disney whenever the $71.3 billion merger closes.

“I can’t say it’s related to the Disney acquisition, because they don’t own us yet, and I don’t have any marching orders,” said Landgraf, who talked at length about how the FX brand can thrive at family-friend Disney in an Adweek cover story earlier this year.

Much like HBO programming chief Casey Bloys told reporters last week, Landgraf said he’ll be cautious not to make any moves that would affect the quality of FX’s programing.

“You can’t get infinitely bigger without diffusing the brand,” said Landgraf, noting that Netflix’s business model is to “be all things to all people. I don’t see that as our role.”

He added, “I don’t want to take over the world. I just want to make good television.”

This morning, FX announced it is opening up its ad-free FX+ offering to all current subscribers and has hired Chris Rock to star in Season 4 of Fargo, which will film next year.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV/Media Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.
Publish date: August 3, 2018 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT