FX chief John Landgraf has long been a proponent of transparency, making public his research team’s hyper-analyzed TV viewership data on a regular basis. But with the launch of FX on Hulu, the basic cabler’s new streaming home, how its shows’ viewership is divulged is not entirely up to him.
Landgraf, of course, is privy to granular data on how his shows are performing on the service. He knows just how many people have seen “A Christmas Carol,” and when. (They’re an average of 17 years younger on Hulu than on FX.) But unlike at linear FX, these numbers aren’t his to release into the wild, since they live on a partner platform outside of his purview.
But part of the reason is that Hulu still has a minority owner in Comcast, which gave Disney full operational control last year but has through 2024 to sell its stake in the company.
“[Hulu] can’t always show us the entire platform data because there are certain respects in which they’re obligated to segregate certain data that they can see from us at this point, because it’s not wholly owned,” Landgraf told Variety.
Ever the maximalist about how many charts and figures he would like to offer to the public, Landgraf — a recurring critic of Netflix’s self-reported data — holds his own particular philosophy about transparency.
“I don’t have say over how this unfolds; it’s not under my aegis,” he said. “But I do think that that distinct lack of transparency that has been a hallmark of the streaming age has got to start to break down eventually.”
Ahead of the launch of FX on Hulu, there’s the odd detail or two that has not yet been fleshed out — for one thing, whether exclusive FX on Hulu series such as “Devs” or “Mrs. America” will eventually make their way over to the flagship linear FX network.
Meanwhile, in this era of streamers that have enveloped traditional cable powerhouses into their greater identities, singling out who gets credit for what — like, say, if FX on Hulu exclusive “Mrs. America” gets a nod — is getting a little hazier.
“This is a place where the industry’s going to have to grow, I think it’s going to have to change,” said Landgraf. “If you think about it, you now have this weird state of affairs, where you have Amazon, Netflix and Apple, where the platform and the programming brand are the same. …Then you have Disney Plus, which is a platform that has five brands. You have Peacock, which is going to have multiple brands. You have Hulu, that now has two brands.”
And while it’s important for those sources of original programming to get proper attribution, Landgraf is also fully aware that consumers are less concerned with industry credits than where they can find the show they want to watch.
“Brands need to get credit for the work they do in developing and curating [programming], but from a consumer standpoint, they also need to know that this platform has the aggregation of all these brands,” he said.
“I can’t be in a situation where if the Hulu original programming brand wins an award, there’s a differential value to it than if the FX brand wins an award,” he said. “First of all, I need people to know that FX is on Hulu — Hulu originals are on Hulu, FX is on Hulu, so if you like that brand, [it’s all] Hulu. But then I need someone who’s considering whether to buy Amazon or Hulu to be able to count and aggregate all the excellence that its collective brands make… You can’t have an unfair inequitable situation where Peacock, HBO Max, Disney Plus and Hulu are held to one standard and Amazon, Netflix and Apple are held to a different standard.”