FX president John Landgraf addressed the philosophy of how he goes through the renewal process at the summer Television Critics Association press tour on Saturday, saying that cancelling shows is harder for cable executives than it is for network chiefs.
"On cable, renewal equals success, cancellation equals failure," he said, meaning that, because ratings don't play as big of a part in a decision to re-up shows on cable as they do on network television, the line between what's working and what doesn't is that much more blunt.
"I think it’s very tempting under the circumstances not to cancel shows because it signals that you’re admitting failure," said Landgraf.
The FX honcho lamented the push across the cable-verse for more, more, more. "I think there’s arguably too much scripted programming," he said, and because of that, "there’s just so much competition that it’s hard to keep shows on the air."
Landgraf told reporters that he currently has room for only five dramas and five sitcoms on FX, although he'd like to bring the latter figure to seven. When deciding his future programming needs, he sometimes has to make difficult decisions to bring potentially more buzz-worthy projects to air.
He cited two recently cancelled critical darlings as shows he had to let go for the greater good of the network. While he expressly said that he didn't consider "Lights Out" and "Terriers" failures and in fact praised them as creative successes, he said sacrificing them allowed him the leeway to bring Ryan Murphy back to the network with a drama starring Jessica Lange.
"If I hadn’t canceled 'Lights Out' and 'Terriers,' then 'American Horror Story' wouldn’t exist," he said.