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FX’s Landgraf Calls Metrics Driving Netflix, Amazon, Hulu a ‘Stiff Headwind’ for Traditional TV Programmers

16 Aug, 2017 By: Doug McPherson

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – FX Networks chief John Landgraf told those gathered at the Television Critics Association press tour last week that he sees a shift of programming becoming a commodity and that Netflix could end up with a monopoly over the creative community.

Landgraf compared Netflix’s growth as a purveyor of programming to the trend in Silicon Valley of single companies dominating sectors, citing the overwhelming market share for Google in search, Facebook in social media, or PayPal in financial transactions.

“I just think that’s something that we as a society should be paying attention to in general,” Landgraf said. “I think it would be bad for storytellers in general if one company was able to seize a 40-, 50-, or 60-percent share in storytelling. I don’t think monopoly market shares are good for society, and I think they’d be particularly bad for society and storytellers if they were achieved in the storytelling genre.”

Landgraf admitted Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are creating quality shows, but questioned the impact of Netflix’s large volume growth and what many see as a reliance on data and algorithms to make programming decisions.

“Television shows are not like cars or operating systems, and they are not best made by engineers or coders in the same assembly line manner as consumer products which need to be of uniform size, shape, and quality,” Landgraf said.

Landgraf predicted last year that the number of original scripted series on television and streaming would peak in 2015 or 2016. He told the group he was wrong.

“It now seems clear that, at a minimum, the peak will be in calendar 2017 – and there is enough inertial momentum here that we could well see the growth trend carrying over into the 2018 calendar year,” Landgraf said. But he is still expecting peak TV to peak.

“I will still stick by my prediction that we are going to hit a peak in the scripted series business within the next two-and-a-half years – and then see a decline – by calendar (2019) at the latest,” he said. “Understand that a good share of [original series] programming is being produced at a loss, in the belief that it will drive a massive shift in the share of consumption that will swamp competitors.”

Landgraf said FX and other traditional TV programming business incumbents are under pressure from large digital giants that spend money on original series that aren’t benchmarked by ratings or profitability, but rather the ability of the programming to gain market share.

The competition from companies that operate by such different metrics “is a stiff headwind for anybody,” Landgraf added.

Landgraf also broached diversity in TV programming and says FX is working to improve the level of diversity among the directors of its series. He also praised Variety Chief TV Critic Maureen Ryan for a story last November citing the shockingly low level of women and minorities behind the camera at FX and other top networks.

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