FX Networks CEO John Landgraf was his typical philosophical self in his opening remarks at the winter TCA press tour, citing Charles Dickens’ “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” in reflecting on 2017.
While the line was in reference to consumers’ decreasing attention spans amid a proliferation of great content, it also could apply to news that closed out last year: the announcement of a proposed blockbuster deal that would have Disney acquire a number of key 21st Century Fox assets, including FX Networks.
The proposed deal has created a lot of anxiety on the Fox lot, but judging by Landgraf’s comments, he largely views the prospect of FX moving to Disney as a sign of best of times to come.
His optimism largely is based on the fact that FX Networks is a small and efficient operation unlike anything in Disney’s portfolio that boasts critically acclaimed, adult-themed series.
“We are a very lean organization, 270 people — a very small, tight, efficient organization — and we have a very distinct culture,” Landgraf said. “It sounds that Disney would want what we have to offer. If we can maintain our culture, I feel optimistic about our ability to do what we do best.”
Landgraf said that he “had a lovely conversation with [Disney CEO] Bob Iger” after the deal was announced, in which he indicated that he “really wanted FX to be part of the larger company.”
“What we do, the expertise that we have, doesn’t exist in the Disney company, so we are bringing something unique and distinct,” Landgraf said.
“One reason they are getting bigger is they want to compete with the global streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and HBO,” he added. Noting that these platforms all have made a lot of money with the type of adult programming FX makes, something that the family-focused Disney doesn’t have much of. “That’s an important part of what drives consumers; we would become the adult scripted component in their ([direct-to-consumer] plans.”
Pressed about his own potential role in the expanded Disney, Landgraf, whose contract is up this year, understandably was coy while sounding bullish about possibly writing a new chapter for FX in the mouse house.
“I don’t think they know yet — or if they do they haven’t told me — how they plan to organize that vast company,” he said. “It’s more complicated for individuals who have counterparts and overlap. Neither of us have counterparts as what we do doesn’t exist there. On some level, that is a relatively clean thing. But how they integrate the structure, where I sit relative to that, and where FX sits relative to these plans, I genuinely don’t know.”
Landgraf said he was encouraged by the way Disney has integrated other distinct brands such as Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm.
“I think Disney, under Iger’s leadership, has become a very good steward of brands it has bought, places with distinctive creative cultures that have thrilled under his leadership,” he said.