FX CEO John Landgraf celebrated his 20th year at the now Disney-owned network Friday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour by saying “adios” to Peak TV.
The executive, who famously coined the phrase back in 2015 to represent the content boom, announced that U.S. scripted originals tumbled 14 percent year-over-year (from 600 to 512) in 2023 and the industry has now entered its “Peaked TV” era.
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“I was finally correct,” he quipped after two previously incorrect estimates for when the Peak TV era would officially conclude. He said that last year’s dual Hollywood strikes “undoubtedly played a role,” but the decline in the volume of scripted series was “likely under way” before labor actions by writers and actors brought production to a standstill.
Calling the change a “realignment” for the industry, Landgraf seems to have learned from his previous Peak TV predictions and did not offer an estimate of when he thinks the content contraction would level out.
“I can forecast that in 2024, we will see more year-on-year declines between this year and last year,” he told assembled press in Pasadena, Calif. “We’ve been tracking the number of scripted shows for 15 years now, and that’s how we could see the storm coming. At one point, there were more than 60 networks, which is just as unsustainable as watching 600 shows. As most companies realize, quantity doesn’t lend itself to quality. But this retrenchment will have little impact at FX.”
In an era in which Warner Bros. Discovery is licensing HBO shows to Netflix after previously trying to compete with the streaming giant, Landgraf was asked if he was worried the industry was making the same mistake in further building up the former DVD-by-mail company.
“I hope we’re not making the same mistake again,” Landgraf said, declining to crown Netflix the winner of the streaming wars. “You don’t want a one-dimensional ecosystem; you want competition and balance. For Disney, I wouldn’t say the streaming wars are over; they’re far from over. … We’re in it to win it, and I’m bullish about [Disney’s] future.”
Here are other highlights from Landgraf’s 45 minutes before the press corps:
A bittersweet 2023 but stacked 2024
After taking home 16 Emmys last year — the second-most in FX’s history — Landgraf called 2023 a “bittersweet” year for the network. Snowfall, Mayans MC, Archer, Dave (which he said is on “indefinite hiatus”) and Reservation Dogs all concluded last year, which put additional pressure on development execs. “There were more shows turning over at one time than I’m comfortable with,” Landgraf said, noting that he expected Sterlin Harjo’s critical favorite Reservation Dogs to run for five seasons but trusted the creator when he presented the network with a third and final season. FX’s 2024 roster includes the recently launched second season of Feud, the upcoming Shogun (“FX’s most ambitious” show to date), Welcome to Wrexham, the second half of American Horror Story‘s 12th season, The Veil and Clipped launching in the first half, with limited series Say Nothing, American Sports Story, the sixth and final season of What We Do in the Shadows, The Old Man, American Horror Stories, Dying for Sex and The English Teacher coming in the second half. Emmy darling The Bear, he said, will return in June with its third season.
The Bear will remain a binge drop
Landgraf confessed he was just as surprised that The Bear became a critical breakout and noted that the Emmy-winning comedy will likely remain a binge drop. “It’s anxiety-inducing to watch that show, and those aren’t the adjectives you associate with a hit TV show and Emmys,” he said. “We made the decision that we’d drop the whole thing as a binge because [season one] has a really uplifting ending … and then we thought it would be a rotten thing to change it up with the audience [for season two]. We decided not to change what we already set in motion and I have no doubt we’ll keep doing it.”
“FX is no longer trying to compete with Amazon or Netflix”
Giving credit to Disney CEO Bob Iger and Disney Entertainment co-chair Dana Walden for ushering FX into the streaming era via Hulu, Landgraf said “FX is no longer trying to compete with Amazon or Netflix” other than creatively and in bidding wars for programming. Instead, he said, “Disney competes with everyone” and FX now serves as a brand contributor alongside the likes of Marvel, Lucasfilm, Freeform and Onyx Collective. “FX wouldn’t exist at this point without Disney or Hulu,” Landgraf said.
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