WIDE AN­GLE

Los Angeles Times - - THE ENVELOPE - By Stephen Battaglio stephen.battaglio@la­times.com

FX Net­works chief John Land­graf lets new plat­forms bring shows to view­ers.

When John Land­graf took over as pres­i­dent of FX Net­works in 2004, the ca­ble net­work had two orig­i­nal scripted se­ries. His port­fo­lio is now closer to 20 shows, many of which are pro­duced in-house, giv­ing the net­work a strong hand in cre­at­ing edgy tele­vi­sion that of­ten lands on crit­ics’ best-of lists and earns award con­sid­er­a­tion. Land­graf ex­plains why he thinks the FX ap­proach is built for the new tele­vi­sion age.

You have al­ways stressed the im­por­tance of FX be­ing a dis­tinc­tive brand. But new tech­nol­ogy for view­ing has made it even more vi­tal, true?

I wrote a memo sev­eral years ago in which I thought a lot about the fu­ture and sug­gested — and I still be­lieve this — that FX’s suc­cess in the fu­ture lies in it be­ing a suc­cess­ful mul­ti­plat­form brand. At that time, we were al­most ex­clu­sively a lin­ear chan­nel. But I think we’re go­ing to have to be a mul­ti­plat­form brand, com­prised of con­tent viewed and de­liv­ered on lin­ear chan­nels, apps, dot-coms, part­ner apps, stream­ing video on-de­mand ser­vices and on home video — in ev­ery way that con­sumers want to con­sume the con­tent.

Has there been a greater pay­off in your de­ci­sion to own so much of your con­tent now that there are so many other places to show it or sell it?

We got into the pro­gram own­er­ship busi­ness pri­mar­ily for cre­ative rea­sons. Ev­ery­thing about our busi­ness is de­signed to cre­ate the best pos­si­ble ex­pe­ri­ence for cre­ative peo­ple to do the best work they can — and, so, es­sen­tially, be­com­ing the stu­dio, in most cases, as well as the net­work was a part of uni­fy­ing that process. But, as it turned out, it was very much the right thing to do eco­nom­i­cally, as ad sales be­came more chal­lenged on lin­ear chan­nels. And it was even more the right thing to do from a brand­ing stand­point. Be­cause ul­ti­mately, again, the brand has to travel be­yond the lin­ear chan­nel be­cause so much con­sump­tion from con­sumers is now hap­pen­ing in other ways.

Do awards help a show find a new au­di­ence, with view­ers’ abil­ity to watch on de­mand?

I think an Emmy nom­i­na­tion, or win, can help peo­ple move a pro­gram into their con­sid­er­a­tion set. And now there’s ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. “The Amer­i­cans” is al­most three sea­sons old, but it’s still — now it’s very pos­si­ble for some­one to en­ter it at this late date and catch up with it, just as they did with “Break­ing Bad.” You know, many of them who had never seen it be­fore watched “Break­ing Bad” be­fore the fi­nal sea­son. So I think that’s a rel­a­tively new phe­nom­e­non in tele­vi­sion. I think that’s been in­flu­enced by all the non­lin­ear avail­abil­ity of con­tent.

“The Amer­i­cans” isn’t a huge rat­ings hit. But you men­tioned that its au­di­ence in­cludes Pres­i­dent Obama and his fam­ily. What makes that mean­ing­ful to you?

It’s mean­ing­ful in the sense that you want in­flu­en­tial peo­ple to love your pro­gram­ming and love your brand. That would in­clude, by the way, writ­ers and film­mak­ers and ac­tors and other peo­ple that we might want to be in busi­ness with. So “The Amer­i­cans” and “Fargo” and also “Louie.” These are re­ally im­por­tant stan­dard-bear­ers for our brand, from a qual­i­ta­tive stand­point.

What’s your great Emmy hope for this year?

I have no doubt that “The Amer­i­cans” is one of the best dra­mas on tele­vi­sion. I don’t think any­body who watches a lot of tele­vi­sion doesn’t be­lieve that. And so I’d cer­tainly like to see the Em­mys fi­nally get around to rec­og­niz­ing that through a nom­i­na­tion. And I think, frankly, if they nom­i­nate it, the episodes we’ll be able to field and show them will be com­pet­i­tive with any show on tele­vi­sion. I think we had some ex­tra­or­di­nary work done by “Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story” this year. And I think “Louie” is bet­ter than ever.

Mel Mel­con Los An­ge­les Times

JOHN LAND­GRAF says FX got into “the pro­gram own­er­ship busi­ness” for cre­ative rea­sons, but it’s been “the right thing to do eco­nom­i­cally” too.

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