With FX’s addition to the line-ups of Disney streaming services Hulu domestically and Star internationally, FX Chairman John Landgraf is focusing on FX more as a holistic brand than as a network, he said Friday at a virtual panel of the Television Critics Association 2021 summer press tour.
“FX built a distinctive brand of quality, one that we know has value to consumers who are navigating the overwhelmingly amount of choice available in the streaming era, and we know that because we’ve done a lot of research which validates that statement. We made a decision to position FX as a brand that travels every place our programming lives, whether at FX or FXX on linear or Hulu and Star on streaming,” Landgraf told reporters on Friday.
“You’ve heard me talk ad nauseam about the importance to FX of curating a brand identity, and as some of you may have noticed, we have now affixed the FX logo to the title treatments of all of our shows so that wherever those shows travel, our brand travels with them.
“Our mission is to develop, commission, produce, market, and publicize our shows in support of our talent and brand. Many of our shows are produced directly through FX Productions, and many come from our partner Dana Walden and her teams at 20th Television and ABC Signature. Job one is to make shows that are highly original and driven by distinctive, creative perspectives that become commercial and qualitative successes, and if we do that, we continue to make FX brand deposits that benefit our linear channels, Hulu, Star, and ultimately The Walt Disney Company.”
Under Disney’s new corporate structure, “I would say I’ve had less control of the question of when to put a show on this year than I’ve ever had in my entire career, because so much of that has been decided for us by, frankly, when we could return to production safely, when and where and how our talent was comfortable with the safety of the working environment,” Landgraf said. “So I guess you could say that’s been frustrating, but on some level it’s been easier because the decisions have been made for me.”
As part of that increasing commitment to FX’s brand, it’s ramping up production of original series to 30, Landgraf said, admitting the TV landscape is the most challenging it’s ever been.
“I have never experienced a level of competition or an environment that’s as crowded as the one we’ve been in in television for the last several years,” he said.
“That’s also why you see that how FX constitutes itself as a brand is a kind of … a vertical stack, where the material’s often produced by FX Productions or 20th Television or ABC Studios —not always, but almost always, usually. And so we sort of have a control over the process qualitatively from end to end, from overall deals in development that occur at our sister studios or internal studios all the way through commissioning, all the way through production and postproduction, and then leading into marketing, publicity.
“I think you have to get absolutely everything right to break a show out. First and foremost, you’ve got to get the show right and great. But second of all, you have to wrap best-in-class marketing and publicity around it. That’s where I think … the FX publicity team is really unparalleled. And the FX marketing team has won the Promax Marketing Team of the Year, believe it or not, 10 years in a row, which is a peer-awarded honor from the industry.”
While FX has proved its prowess across production, marketing and publicity, Landgraf admits that it’s not easy to get shows into the conversation.
“Has it been difficult to get Reservation Dogs noticed and broken out and really launched with verve on the Hulu platform? Yes, it has. But so far we’ve really been able to achieve that.
“If you go back to the shows we’ve launched since March of 2019, we’ve actually had one of the most successful batting averages across that span that we’ve ever experienced in the 19 years at FX, for the 17 years I’ve been at the channel.
“So it’s hard. I can tell you that the organization is really stretched because of the kind of bespoke and personalized relationships and the attention we pay to the talent and to each individual show. The challenge here is how successfully can we scale that process and how much can we contribute to Hulu and Disney without lowering our batting average or sort of diminishing the success or quality of our shows. As I said,  was the number we arrived at as the most and best that we can do. It’s my hope that that number is substantial enough across the course of a year that it’s a meaningful beacon to consumers even within the extraordinarily competitive environment in the streaming era.”