FX Boss John Landgraf Addresses Concerns of Network’s Identity Being Absorbed by Hulu

John Landgraf Showman of the Year
Jill Greenberg for Variety

During a video executive session Wednesday, FX chairman John Landgraf addressed concerns that the FX brand could eventually be completely absorbed by Hulu as the network begins airing more and more original programming on the streaming service.

“I think the question is can these brands be used as locators inside platforms?” Landgraf said in response to a question about people referring to shows like “What We Do in the Shadows” as Hulu shows. “You have a platform that’s the consumer facing brand and inside the platform if you want to find a particular concentration of a particular kind of programming, you go through the brand to do that.”

“What I would say is it’s going to be really interesting to see how this evolves because you do have certain platforms where there is no difference between the platform and the brand,” he continued. “Obviously Netflix is a classic example of that. There is no sub-brand on Netflix. There is only Netflix and Netflix is both the program and the channel brand. That’s working really well for them, but I think Netflix will come to stand for everything, really television as a whole. It’s the business model, it’s the ticker sign, it’s the streaming platform, it’s every form of television you could possibly imagine in every tone in every genre.”

The need to differentiate Hulu and FX is not a new conversation. Variety reported in January that FX shows that debut on Hulu will be counted solely as FX shows for Emmy consideration as a means to clear up any confusion as FX begins feeding more original programming into the streamer.

Landgraf also said that in reality there used to be no TV brands, but rather TV locations, and that HBO became one of the first such locations to grow beyond its call letters into a well-defined destination for a certain type of programming. He went on to say that there now appears to be two distinct types of brands within television — “a brand that is a streaming brand that is a product that you would buy, like Amazon Prime or Netflix or Hulu or Disney Plus, and then a brand that resides inside that product, like Pixar or Marvel or ‘Star Wars’ or National Geographic.”

“What you can see is there’s a pure and more concentrated form of certain kinds of programming inside certain brands,” he said. “So it’s not to say that Netflix, for example, doesn’t have really excellent programming…but when you look at the proportion of that within the Netflix brand it’s very very small compared to the proportion of that within HBO or FX.”

Landgraf was then asked if the events of the past several months, such as the pandemic and mass civil unrest in the United States, has changed what kinds of programs he is looking for at FX.

“You can see the younger generation in America rising up in a really powerful way with very strong and clear opinions,” he said. “I think the answer is clearly yes, it’s going to change programming.” He then referred specifically to police shows, saying, “I think they are absolute staples of television — and I don’t mean to say that they will cease to exist — but FX has never existed to do an ordinary version of any type of show. I don’t even know how to do a cop show at the moment. I’m not saying one will never be done again or there is no way to do it, but I just don’t know how to do it.”