You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

FX Boss John Landgraf on Diversity, Apple Music, ‘American Crime Story’

Fifteen years ago, FX showed up to its first Television Critics Association press tour to introduce “The Shield,” the network’s big bet on scripted TV. In the years since, the network has grown to tie HBO as a critical success. FX and HBO each accounted for 20% of critics’ end-of-year best lists (Netflix came in with 17%).

But though that’s a good benchmark, FX Networks CEO John Landgraf had another one on his mind Thursday morning at the TCA winter press tour in Pasadena: Diversity and inclusion.

“We had accepted the accurate critique that we were not doing what we could be doing and that we were embarrassed frankly that we were bringing up the rear,” Landgraf told reporters.

And so by the end of 2016, FX had managed to swing from a network whose shows were directed by white men 81% of the time to a network whose shows were directed by people of color or white women 52% of the time. “I’m not going to tell you the work is done,” Landgraf said. “But we’re going to do it, and keep doing it, until every aspect of our channel is fair and a more accurate representation of the world we live in.”

The competitive landscape has also exploded since the early aughts, and nearly every month brings a new potential distributor of TV. With reports of Apple Music making a big push into scripted TV, there’s one more place Landgraf and his team have to outbid — or sell to. FX Productions has been selling projects to other networks, taking advantage of the FX brand halo. “We welcome the competition,” Landgraf said.

When Landgraf used the term “peak TV” in 2015, the phrase took on a life of its own, but he said Thursday morning he doesn’t use it as an excuse: “We use it to say, okay, this is happening. How good does a show have to be for you to care? That bar seems to go up a bit every year from the year before.”

FX’s slate seems qualified to weather any impending storms. The third installment of Noah Hawley’s critically lauded “Fargo” will premiere in April; Hawley’s X-Men-related series “Legion” begins its run on Feb. 8. Two installments of “American Crime Story” are coming up (“Katrina” and “Versace”). “Feud” kicks off with its eight-episode exploration of the Bette Davis-Joan Crawford feud on March 5. “The Americans” returns March 7.

Not all of the shows listed above, however, draw huge numbers of eyeballs. Yet the metrics by which Landgraf and his lieutenants gauge success have changed. Ad revenue is now just 35% of FX’s cash pile, which gives the network a little more freedom to look at other factors when deciding what shows to pick up or renew.

Awards show hardware is one factor, though with FX flooding the limited series category with series like “Fargo,” “American Crime Story,” and “American Horror Story,” it may be leaving some statues on the table. Yet FX President of Original Programming Nick Grad isn’t overly concerned about Emmy strategy. “There are so many moving pieces on the schedule, you can overthink yourself to death. We’re not leaving shows on the shelf to wait for a certain awards season,” he said.

Part of the reason FX has so many moving pieces is that it has more real estate, with FX expansion network FXX now heading into its fourth year of existence. “When it was suggested to us we might want to start another network, we thought it was maybe a suicide mission,” Landgraf said. Yet the network’s performance has exceeded their expectations, and, more importantly, has provided an opportunity to give chances to more off-the-wall shows. “It’s enabled us to take more shots,” Original Programming President Eric Schrier said.

It all goes back to what Landgraf, Grad, and Schrier consider success.

“Back when we were just starting to figure out, ‘What are the criteria we should use to pick up a show?’ it was suggested, ‘Can we imagine, 20 years from now, two people sitting over lunch and talking about this show?'” Landgraf said. “[TV] has moved from a disposable medium that’s consumed live and is only there to get people to watch commercials.”

More TV

  • Inside Taronga Zoo

    Nat Geo Wild and More 4 Snap Up Australian Doc Series 'Inside Taronga Zoo'

    Cineflix Rights has pre-sold Australian wildlife documentary series “Inside Taronga Zoo” to Nat Geo Wild for the U.S. and More 4 for the U.K. The 10 part series is produced by McAvoy Media for Nine Network Australia, where it will air as “Taronga: Who’s Who In The Zoo.” “Inside Taronga Zoo” follows the 240 keepers and vets caring for [...]

  • Watchmen HBO

    TV Review: 'Watchmen'

    “Watchmen,” the 1980s DC Comics series whose popularity demands adaptation and whose singular vision makes that near-impossible, might be too much itself to bring out the best in any artist. But it has brought out the most in Damon Lindelof. As a follow-up to HBO’s “The Leftovers,” Lindelof returns to the cabler to remix and [...]

  • Mary Higgins Clark

    Reel One, Element 8 and La Sabotière to Develop Mary Higgins Clark's Crime Novels

    Montreal-based producer and distributor Reel One Entertainment has partnered with U.S. producer Element 8 Entertainment and Paris-based La Sabotière to develop an anthology series based on the novels of American crime writer Mary Higgins Clark. U.S. screenwriter and author Ilene Rosenzweig, whose credits include “Station 19” and “Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce,” is attached as writer [...]

  • Informer

    Mipcom Roundup: All3Media and Blue Ant Sell in Asia, Lagardère Buys in Spain

    In Variety’s third Mipcom Roundup Alibaba’s streaming platform Youku gets BBC programs, Lagardère buys full ownership of Barcelona’s Veranda, Banijay rolls out Guinness World Records series, Blue Ant International sells and renews and All3Media Intl. extends into Japan and Taiwan. All3Media Strikes Deals in Japan, Taiwan All3Media has grown its footprint in Asia thanks to newly announced [...]

  • Help Wanted: Amazon Studios International Execs

    Help Wanted: Amazon Studios International Execs Talk European Expansion

    If there’s a perfect example of Amazon Studios’ strategy with its local-language international TV content, Japan’s “Documental” would be it. The series revolves around 10 comedians who battle to make one another laugh in an elimination-style competition. James Farrell, Amazon Studios’ head of international originals, said it was a good example of an unconventional idea [...]

  • vernon-subutex

    Studiocanal Closes North America SVOD on ‘Vernon Subutex’ with Topic (EXCLUSIVE)

    CANNES —  Forging what could well be a fertile relationship, Studiocanal has sold North American SVOD rights on Canal Plus Creation Original “Vernon Subutex,” and “Pros and Cons,” from Denmark’s SAM Productions, to First Look Media’s Topic. Targeting “culture cravers,” “an audience deeply involved in social, political and cultural issues of today,” general manger Ryan [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content