FX CEO John Landgraf rang a chime of doom at TCA earlier this month when he proclaimed that “There is simply too much television” and predicted a peak and decline in the next two years. He carried the conversation across the Atlantic this week to the Edinburgh TV Festival — and took it a step further. Of the amount of content currently available, he said, “It’s like winning a pie-eating contest every day… In some ways, we’re choking on our own abundance.” He also predicted “some level of crisis and contraction coming.”
The topic was one of this week’s themes that was perhaps more top of mind for U.S. execs as opposed to the main conversation here regarding the fate of the BBC. A+E and History president Paul Buccieri, for example, took a page out of Landgraf’s book when he said today, “Where I see a potential issue is these shows are supported by the international market and there’s so much in that market that somebody is going to be left holding the bag.”
He added, “The best will always have a place, but if you’re in a tier, you might get left out in the cold.” He then tossed over to EVP International for A+E Networks, Sean Cohan. Cohan said, “The phrase is ‘the death of the middle.’ We’re getting to a place where there’s going to be too much dramatic content. The best will always be bought and continue to rise in price. In the U.S., there are 62 buyers for drama. There is a lot of demand for the best, but that middle goes away or drowns. It’s the best or the cheap and cheerful.”
Landgraf separately expanded on the controversial comments he made at TCA, saying, “I’ve looked generally at (the amount of) voices in television as something that has benefited us, but you reach something called ‘the paradox of choices.’ ” Too much choice “breeds discontent” and “becomes work because whenever you’re choosing something, you’re un-choosing something else,” he said.
The exec also commented, “I don’t think business’ first priority is the creative health of narrative storytelling. It’s very important to me, but ultimately the business wants to make money. If it can have a uniform set of voices, it’ll do that. If it’s a situation where money can be made making an infinite number of television shows, then it will do that. I see the business eating the creative tail right now.”
But, he wasn’t all gloom: “Maybe what defines us uniquely as a species is storytelling…we love them and we will always love them. I’m not saying storytelling is going away and I don’t think the television industry will go away.”