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FX CEO John Landgraf on the TV content bubble

Kai Ryssdal Nov 2, 2015
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In August, FX CEO John Landgraf told the TV Critics Association there’s a bubble in the television industry. He said there are too many scripted TV shows, leaving both audiences and content creators in a bad position.

Martketplace host Kai Ryssdal talked to Landgraf about his theory and the challenges of making TV these days.

On why he thinks there’s a bubble in TV:

Well, I can’t prove it. I can tell you that I went as someone who does this professionally from being able to keep track of every show … to absolutely not being able to keep track of every show. I couldn’t tell you if you put me in a room. I could probably name half those shows by title. You know, what ends up happening then is you have more difficulty having a coherent dialogue on a national basis about what television shows were great, what television shows were important, which ones were addressing issues or introducing us to characters we’d never seen before. That seems to have kind of fractured and broken down to a large extent at the moment.

On how difficult it is for people to find great TV:

I don’t think that you … can find what you like best. I think that you can find things that you like, ’cause there’s so much good television that you’re never gonna run out of a supply. But if your goal was to find the things that you would like best, I think you’ll have limited amounts of success, because I think you have no way of navigating and really finding the very best things. And I think that even the critics can’t help you do that anymore, because they don’t have a consensus about what it is. And I feel that ultimately the net effect is that, you know, the consumers love television — and I know this is heretical to say this — but they love it a little bit less, because there’s too much of it.

On whether FX is contributing to the problem:

We cancel really good shows. We canceled a show called “Married” that is really a good show, and there are many people that really love it…. The answer is that you gotta cancel a good show so that you can try to make a great show. But, on the other hand, we have a great show on the air right now called “Fargo.” “Fargo” season one was the most critically acclaimed television show in America last year. The second cycle, which is currently on the air, has been widely judged by critics to be better than the first cycle, and yet the audience for it is a little down…. Ultimately I believe that Fargo will be watched a great deal over the next 10 years because it’s just that good. But the reality is that in this moment in time, this show, which will probably once again be the most critically acclaimed show in America, is getting drowned out by a lot of other shows that are good, or some of them mediocre, because essentially there’s too much television.  

On how he sees the future of the TV industry: 

If you accept the premise that television is a mass medium, ultimately you have to be able to aggregate a mass audience, and so too many shows, too many entrants creates a bubble. And ultimately  what happens to bubbles is they deflate eventually and you come back to some kind of more sustainable business model with a sustainable number of series. But…there’s no question that I and everyone else who’s marketing television is having more and more difficulty getting your attention because there’s so many shows clamoring for your attention.

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