The launch of “FX on Hulu” solidifies streamer’s contrasting identity from Disney+
FX premieres its newest drama on Thursday, the science-fiction thriller “Devs” from “Ex Machina” director Alex Garland. But viewers won’t find it anywhere on FX’s broadcast schedule, but instead on Hulu.
This week, FX solidified its relationship with Hulu with the launch of the “FX on Hulu” programming brand. This makes Hulu the sole streaming home of FX, which includes a slew of FX-produced shows that will be exclusive to the Disney-owned streaming service.
Branding is everything: For legacy media networks, that may mean that it’s no longer enough to survive on being just a TV channel. You can’t blame Disney for wanting to supercharge Hulu with the same company responsible for Emmy-winning series like “The Americans” and “Pose.”
That means FX is now tasked with being both a TV network and a studio.
“I’ve been saying for a long time we had to become a multi-platform brand. We had to be more than a channel,” FX boss John Landgraf told TheWrap in January during the Television Critics Association press tour. “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.”
When Disney first gained majority control of Hulu following its Fox acquisition, many in the industry wondered why Disney, a handful of months away from launching Disney+, would want to operate a competing streaming service. But Disney brass argued that the audience for Hulu was different enough from Disney’s family-friendly brand.
Disney is proving that out by creating two distinct programming lanes for Hulu and Disney+. When both “High Fidelity” and “Love, Victor” last month were deemed too mature for the family-friendly Disney+, they were shuffled over to Hulu. The development issues surrounding the “Lizzie McGuire” revival, which already fired creator Terri Minsky, have led star Hillary Duff to plead for Disney to move the series over to Hulu. Duff argues that the revival of the Disney Channel series should not be confined to Disney+’s desire for PG-rated fare. Since announcing that it was looking for a new showrunner, Disney has remained silent on the issue.
Hulu allows Disney to have its cake and eat it too: Branch out with darker, more adult-skewing fare, while not ruining their carefully-curated identity the company has cultivated. For FX, home to harder-edged series like “Mayans MC” and “American Horror Story,” that meant they were always going to be tying the knot with Hulu.
After “Devs,” FX will have three more exclusive shows for Hulu: The Cate Blanchett-led “Mrs. America,” about Phyllis Schlafly and the ERA, will debut in April. A TV adaptation of the 2013 film “A Teacher” and the Jeff Bridges-starring “The Old Man” are slated for later this year. Landgraf explained that those series, which were initially developed to air on FX, would have had a hard time finding room on the the network’s limited schedule space.
“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,” he said. “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.” “Dave” is slated for FXX.
With the launch of FX on Hulu (and don’t forget FX’s little sibling FXX), that means that Landgraf now has three separate channels to plan for and make each distinct from one another. Consider this as the first true example of FX dipping its toes in the streaming waters.
“As far as what of the FX brand will work best on FX on Hulu? I don’t know,” he said. “Ultimately, we have to prove that it’s useful to Hulu and that it’s useful to Disney.”