General manager signs three-year deal

FX Networks president-general manager John Landgraf has sealed a new deal with the cabler, keeping him in place for the next three years.

Under the pact, Landgraf will continue to oversee all of FX’s entertainment and business operations, as well as FX Prods., Fox Movie Channel and FX HD. Landgraf is also handling the mid-August relaunch of FX.com, which is adding original content and streaming to the site.

“It’s a special place,” Landgraf said. “It’s a very small but extraordinarily passionate staff, from top to bottom.”

Next up for Landgraf, FX is aggressively looking at adding a second comedic half-hour to launch beside critical fave “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” this fall. Cabler has quietly been developing at least five pilot presentations and hopes to choose one to pick up to series by June. Show that’s ultimately chosen will receive a six-episode tryout behind “Sunny.”

” ‘Sunny’ is burning it up on iTunes, and judging by the DVD sales we’re seeing, we’re going to start using it as a tentpole,” he said. “We decided we’d make a number of lower-cost presentations in an attempt to launch a companion piece.”

Projects in development include live-action entry “The Dick Rossi Show,” a talkshow/sketch comedy hybrid from BermanBraun. Project is described as a spinoff of “MadTV.” Net is also developing another live-action pilot with Kenny Hotz (Adult Swim’s “Kenny vs. Spenny”).

Animated projects include one from “Drawn Together” creators Dave Jeser and Matt Silverstein.

FX also has a deal in place with Filmaka, the online filmmaker incubator from Sandy Grushow and Deepak Nayar, to develop new, low-budget projects in a fashion similar to how “Sunny” got its launch.

As for the rest of the channel, Landgraf said he believed FX had now reached “maturity” with its original scripted offerings.

“When I started as head of programming, we had two original series on the air, ‘The Shield’ and ‘Nip/Tuck,’ ” he said. “Now we have eight on. I view the challenge now in the original business one of maintenance, of maintaining our position.”

It hasn’t been easy: FX’s recent entries, such as “Damages” and “The Riches,” have earned high critical marks but haven’t been the ratings smashes that the net’s earlier shows are.

With signature FX series “The Shield” ending its run after one more season, Landgraf said he believed the cabler had a worthy successor in upcoming biker drama “Sons of Anarchy.”

Landgraf said he believed the channel had several more years of “Rescue Me” and “Nip/Tuck” in its future, which still gives it time to find more original fare to eventually replace those shows too.

Net is prepping a second season of “Damages” but hasn’t yet decided whether to bring back “Dirt” and “The Riches” for third go-rounds.

“We do feel some pressure to replace ‘The Shield,’ but we have at least three years to replace ‘Rescue Me’ and ‘Nip/Tuck,’ ” he said. “We’ve got a wealth of options. But it’s always challenging to find shows that are both really good and an asset to your brand. No question it’s a crowded field.”

Landgraf said he has spent more time as of late focusing on the channel’s acquisition strategy. FX will bow cable runs of “Two and a Half Men” in fall 2009 and also has bulked up its theatrical inventory of world commercial premiere titles.

Meanwhile, channel has also been expanding its FX Prods. shingle, which produces “Sunny” and co-produces most of its other fare.

“It’s turning a nice profit for the channel and giving us more control over our own destiny,” Landgraf said.

Under Landgraf, FX averaged its best primetime numbers yet in 2007 among adults 18-49 and 18-34. Net was fourth in adults 18-49 among all cable services in the first quarter of 2008.

Landgraf joined FX as entertainment prexy in 2004, moving to his current position in May 2005. Before that, he was president of Jersey Television. His resume also includes time as VP of primetime series at NBC and as senior VP of Sarabande Prods.

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