Lost ad revenue is the biggest threat to the cable industry, FX Networks CEO John Landgraf told TV critics this morning. Sons Of Anarchy, he noted, averaged more than 5 million demo viewers in Live +7, but only 2 million who watched live and only 3 million who watched the ads. “We need to find new opportunities to mitigate those losses,” he warned. FXNow, an ad-supported on demand service offering FX Networks’ programming, “will allow us to begin rebuilding our advertising business,” Landgraf said.
Also critical: stacking rights, he said. Loosely translated: the rights to make available to viewers all current-season episodes of a series on VOD or authenticated streaming. Those stacking rights are “absolutely vital” he said. “People have been talking about the promise of TV Everywhere for a long time now… It’s been a jerky-jerky process but I’m confident that the industry has achieved the key breakthrough. I think a year or two from now people will really have access to a lot of content.” He noted “ownership of content has bailed us out,” in an evolving advertising universe, acknowleding “It’s a nice thing to have long-tail revenue that undergirds a more volatile thing like advertising sales.”
Landgraf thinks the next season of American Horror Story probably will be another period piece and most of the Coven cast will be back. “Ultimately I’m waiting for Ryan [Murphy] to tell me” what’s going to happen. Other than that, he’s not sure what the next season of one of his most important franchises has in store.
“Ryan has virtual carte blanche at this point to do whatever he wants to do. That really is his baby and while I and others at the company still read scripts and look at rough cuts and give the occasional notes, we don’t have very much input. We don’t really see any reason.” Landgraf noted that every season the show’s ratings have improved – Coven’s ratings grew 60% compared to Asylum and it’s one of the top-rated programs in the network’s history. But “he’s eventually going to make something that’s weaker than the previous season and I don’t think that matters. The exciting thing about the form is every season is new.”
One critic wondered if carte blanche was “dangerous.” “I think it is a little dangerous,” Landgraf agreed. “That kind of excites me.” He said he does not give all of his showrunners that kind of latitude but “I don’t think Louie needs my input. He’s (Louis C.K.) fine without it. Some of you love Louie – some might not. But clearly those shows are somebody’s cup of tea.” Landgraf said he thinks it is more important to “make it really good for somebody, not pretty good for everybody.”