FX Chief John Landgraf Predicts ‘Peak TV’ Boom Will End by 2019

TCA 2016: With so many shows, “audiences are having trouble distinguishing the great from the merely competent,” network boss says

Last Updated: August 9, 2016 @ 12:25 PM

The “peak TV” trend of exploding programming options has led to an oversupply that will end by 2019, John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks and FX Productions, predicted Tuesday.

Landgraf, who won wide attention for sounding a note of alarm about the glut of programs last year, said he was wrong when he forecast that the trend might peak this year.

A continued push by streaming companies, especially Netflix, forced Landgraf to revise his projection. The surge is not a bubble that will suddenly pop, he added, but rather a balloon that will “slowly deflate” no later than 2019.

Meanwhile, viewers and even TV critics are having trouble keeping up with the flood of new original series, Landgraf says.

“We’ve lost much of the tread of collective conversation of which shows are good, which shows are great,” Landgraf told reporters at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in Beverly Hills.

Making TV shows is a creative endeavor not comparable to churning out jet engines or other commodities, he said, adding that FX would be hard-pressed to ramp up beyond the 18 or so series it makes per year, including Emmy winners such as the period drama “The Americans,” about Soviet spies posing as a typical U.S. suburban family.

“We’re at our unit capacity of what we can really pay attention to,” he said.

Landgraf’s implication was that aggressively expanding companies like Netflix can’t possibly pay close attention to the quality of every series they are making. He also suggested that Netflix had amassed too much power in the production sphere, even invoking the world “monopoly” as a warning.

But he was making a financial point as well. Landgraf estimated that it costs somewhere between $4 million and $5 million to make and market an hour of TV programming today, and that cost is going up. Meanwhile, the gulf is widening between hit shows and those that practically no one watches.

“It’s a feast or famine business,” Landgraf said. “There have to be a whole lot of television shows being made that are losing money.”