John Landgraf Points To FX’s Subscriber Growth, Diversity Gains – TCA

By Dade Hayes, Lisa de Moraes

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During his executive session at TCA summer press tour, FX Networks chief John Landgraf rattled off his usual array of numbers.

He didn’t emphasize the “peak TV” statistics that he first unfurled in the same venue in 2015 (apart from a few barbs about the 5% uptick in overall scripted fare). Instead, he quantified FX’s overall subscriber growth and gains in diversity both in front of and behind the camera.


Collectively, Landgraf said, FX, FXX and FXM have 233 million subscribers across all platforms, though that triple-counts some households with access to all three. Unto itself, FX has 90 million subscribers. Moments before Landgraf’s session, the company said it was widening the scope of ad-free subscription service FX+ to make it available to all of those 90 million customers for $5.99 a month.

FX’s subscriber growth “flies in the face of the idea that cord-cutting is accelerating,” Landgraf said. “I’m not saying cord-cutting is a myth, but cord-cutting has decelerated over the past year.” Purveyors of high-quality content, he argued, remain desirable even for those slimming down their TV bundles. “FX networks are among the few that are included in all virtual MVPD bundles,” he added.

Diversity, Landgraf said, is an increasing priority of the company. Noting that the corporate diversity push dates to 2016, he delivered some numbers from what he called an “expanded report card” including other key roles as well as directors.

In 2015, Landgraf said, 88% of series on FX were directed by white men. Among all shows that will air on FX throughout 2018, the numbers are 51% white men, 22% white women, 22% non-white men and 5% non-white women.

For actors, the tallies are 33% white male; 31% non-white male; 18% white women; and 18% non-white women. For writers, it’s 48% white men; 21% non-white men; 17% white women; and 4% non-white women.

Among senior-level writers and executive producers, the numbers are less encouraging, with 33% of people in those roles being women or minorities.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” Landgraf said, “but since only 36% of the population is comprised of white men, we still have a lot of work to do. We someday look forward to showing you numbers that demonstrate true fairness and equal opportunity across the board. We remain intent on fixing what has been a broken system and are determined that FX will be a leader in fostering positive change.”

Unaccompanied by the charts and spread sheets produced in 2015, when Landgraf coined the phrase “peak TV,” he gave the count in terms of scripted programming across the four major categories of programmers.

There have been 319 scripted series released this year, up 5% from 304 at the same time in 2017. Basic cable has seen an 11% decline, from 114 to 102, while broadcast also dropped, by 5% to 114.

Streaming, meanwhile, has surged 46%, from 52 shows to 76, while premium cable is up 42%, from 19 to 27.

“There’s too much story, too much narrative,” the FX boss lamented, noting a recent essay by writer-director Paul Schrader about “narrative exhaustion” in the culture.

He also closed the session with some despairing comments about “predatory economics” on the macro level, noting his intention to read a recent Congressional report from Sen. Mark Warner.

While the impact of that income inequality hurts the middle class of America, Landgraf argued, the TV business also reflects the same imbalance as streaming services continue to fork out billions on content even without booking a profit. “When we have competitors who don’t make money trying to snorf up everything that exists, that feels really crummy to me,” he said.

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