The “Mayor of TV” has weighed in on the industry’s recent trend of “un-renewing” shows or (seemingly) randomly yanking episodes from streaming services.
John Landgraf, chairman of FX Content and FX Productions — and the coiner of the “#PeakTV” term — held court on Thursday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, where he reported that last year the industry aired/streamed 599 adult scripted original series (up 7 percent from 2021).
But that enormous volume of output has not come without a cost, as viewers have really come to see in the past year, as numerous shows saw their renewals stricken, or had episodes/seasons “disappeared” from streaming services for reasons.
“We don’t have any specific plans to do that [at FX], but I wouldn’t rule anything out,” Landgraf admitted.
Surveying how streaming has altered expectations since its advent, Landgraf said, “Whenever there’s a new distribution mode, a new technology, there’s a long process of optimizing both how you tell the stories and how you distribute the stories within that technology.” (He then spoke of how movie studios used to churn out “1000s of movies” but learned to stop “flooding the zone with things that were consumed and then discarded.”)
“I think the Internet removes constraints that used to exist in volume,” he said. “In primetime, whether you had three broadcast networks or four broadcast networks, or you had 200 cable channels, you had a limited amount of shelf space. You certainly had a limited amount [of shows] that gathered meaningful attention… and that was a limiting factor.”
“You just can’t take this infinite amount of money, spend it on something and then just dump it in a single [binge drop],” Landgraf opined. “For one thing, it gets stale after a while. And if you have a streaming platform that has 10, 20,000 pieces of content, it’s very hard to create a user interface that allows people to really find and discover every single piece of content on that platform. So a certain amount fail.”
So in the instance of streamers that pull shows (e.g. HBO Max and Westwworld, The Nevers et al) in order to shop them to FAST services, Landgraf said that “circulating it to somewhere else, someone who would want to market it, would want to put it forward, has some value.
“So again, while I will reiterate that we don’t have any specific place to do that with FX shows, I think the industry as a whole is going through this reckoning…. We’re in this middle-inning period of radical transformation from the preeminent period to the post Internet era, and we’re in a really bumpy part of that transition.”