FX boss John Landgraf famously said in 2015 that there is “simply too much television” and predicted that the industry would soon hit peak TV.
This, however, didn’t happen with his research team revealing that there were 559 original scripted series in 2021, a 5% rise on the pre-pandemic 2019 number.
Today, during his virtual TCA exec session, he admitted that he “I might have been woefully off on when the peak might occur” but added that he was right that peak TV was coming and that it would be “bewildering” for consumers.
His latest comments come as he talked up the company’s 19 new projects – including Under The Banner of Heaven, Pistol, The Bear, The Old Man, Alien, The Patient and Fleishman Is In Trouble – and its 11 returning shows including the final season of Atlanta and a fifth season of Fargo.
One of Landgraf and his team’s challenges is now to figure out how best to schedule and launch these shows, which are a mixture of linear premieres and original streaming series.
Some of these shows will launch with one episode, others might have multiple episodes a week and a few will drop their entire seasons at once. “It becomes about really understanding the cadence of consumption by consumers,” he said. “When they want to watch things, how they want to watch things.”
He admitted that this can be confusing for viewers. “If you’re asking me, am I worried about confusion? The answer is a resounding yes. I’m just trying to sort the best thing to do in each case for each individual show as much as I can. But there’s no way to avoid the fact that it’s a little just bewildering, frankly, the different releases and the sheer number of releases are hard to keep track of for you, for me, for everyone,” he said.
Landgraf said that his preference was still for weekly releases, but there are a number of factors in play including how a viewer will feel after they’ve watched the first two or three episodes, versus how they would feel after watching an entire season, as well as whether a show already has a built-in audience, for instance, if a project is based on IP.
“We really still liked the idea of a show being able to sustain a cultural conversation and for people to sit back and assess an episode at a time. On the other end, I would acknowledge that that doesn’t always work in this environment, particularly with newer shows,” he said, highlighting competitors such as HBO and HBO Max, which have a “hybrid” model where they sometimes drop two or three episodes at a time.
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FX has been ramping up its volume of shows over the last few years since being acquired by Disney and Landgraf said that he believes the optimum number per year is around 30, although cautioned that he and his team have to make more, including pilots, to counter for some titles such as Atlanta and Fargo that haven’t aired every year.
He admitted that it’s been a “long and winding path” but added that he’s “excited and optimistic about the road ahead”.
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