TCA 2020: “We had to be more than a channel,” FX CEO John Landgraf tells TheWrap
Months after shutting down the short-lived FX+, the new Disney-fied FX is re-entering the streaming era. Kind of.
Beginning March 2, “FX on Hulu” becomes the “official” streaming home for FX shows — including all seasons of past FX shows and new original series produced by FX specifically for the streaming platform. Episodes of current FX series will be made available to stream on Hulu the day after they air on the linear network.
The first two shows that FX will be producing , the Alex Garland sci-fi series “Devs” and Cate Blanchett’s “Mrs. America,” will debut in March and April, respectively. Two more — “The Old Man” and “A Teacher” — will air later this year.
TheWrap caught up with FX Networks CEO John Landgraf during the Television Critics Association press tour, where he spoke about how the FX on Hulu partnership gives them additional development shelf space and how the streaming boom could look after three more big launches in 2020.
The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
With the FX on Hulu strategy, are you worried that the FX brand will get muddled?
I think that was one of the reasons that we — and I’m really grateful that my colleagues at Hulu, Walt Disney Television and Direct-to-Consumer supported this decision collectively when we came to it — that we decided we had to put all the FX linear shows on Hulu, so they were all in one place. There’s two shows we can’t do that with, which are “Pose” and “American Crime Story.” But other than that, everything is together.
I didn’t want this bifurcated experience. Is it conceivable that we could eventually go in both directions and have some Hulu shows end up finding their way on FX? Yea, that’s conceivable. It’s not my unilateral decision at all. It’s more Hulu’s decision in some ways than mine.
I want to get the brand together as much as I can.
Do you see a world where FX is viewed more as a studio vs a traditional TV network?
I don’t. Ultimately, FX started as a channel and it became a brand. The way that FX and HBO became brands is they were a channel, plus a network, plus a studio, plus all of the marketing associated with it. I’ve been saying for a long time we had to become a multi-platform brand. We had to be more than a channel. And so, we’ve really leaned into the idea of being a brand. Now, we have something that can transcend the channel on which it was developed.
Ultimately, we have to prove that it’s useful to Hulu and that it’s useful to Disney. But, I can tell you that Disney’s vision and Hulu’s vision and Bob Iger’s vision is that he wants great platforms and great brands. And he wants those two things to each co-exist and thrive.
Why were those four shows the ones selected to move to Hulu?
We had a half-dozen series — actually more, because we have a bunch of a docuseries. We were really fortunate that we have a really stable schedule at FX. Not only could we take most of that schedule and make it available to Hulu, but we could take most of our development for this year, and we had the capacity to start this new initiative. We’re adding “Breeders” and “Dave.” We always said we wanted to keep adding shows to FX, and “Breeders” replaces “Baskets.” But that was the only show we had to replace. In the future, when FX shows are finished we’ll replace them.
Going forward, how will you decide what goes to FX, FXX and FX on Hulu?
With FXX, you have younger skewing shows tend to go there, like “Cake” or “Dave,” vs “What We Do In the Shadows” or “Better Things” [on FX]. As far as what of the FX brand will work best on FX on Hulu? I don’t know. I’m hopeful that the FX brand as a whole will work really well on Hulu, but there may well be some components that work better than others. I have a lot to learn about which components from what we do from a brand standpoint are most useful to Hulu. How that works and their input will be really valuable. I look at FX on Hulu as part of a singular unified brand.
Do you have an idea as to how much you guys will produce annually for FX on Hulu?
Yea. We have some early targets. I have a sense of what it’s supposed to be next year and the year after.
Is it going to grow from the four this year?
It is envisioned to continue to grow. A very substantial portion of what Hulu spends on original programming has been, and will continue to be, Hulu originals. We’re not replacing them. But what’s great is that we’re able to bring a lot of the really great linear shows over; it now becomes a brand of comparable weight. Not because we have many exclusives, but because we have all of it in one place.
Disney and Apple launched their streaming services in November. There are three more to come to this spring with Quibi, Peacock and HBO Max. What will we be saying about streaming at the end of 2020?
I wish I knew. I could make a lot of money if I knew the answer to that question.
It’s a lot of major investment in streaming services. Even if we don’t include Pluto or something like that, you just described 8 streaming services [including Hulu, Netflix and Amazon]. That’s a lot of programming. Probably they won’t all work. Probably some of them will. I think it’s going to be an overwhelming amount of content for the consumer. I think it’s arguably more content than the consumer needs. You could produce more content than the consumer needs for quite a long period of time. But eventually, there will be some rationalization between what the consumer can actually watch and consume and what’s being made.