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From peak TV to peak streaming?: FX's John Landgraf on the state of network TV

by Paola Mardo | The Frame

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John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks, at the 2015 Television Critics Assn. press tour. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

At the end of the Television Critic's Association summer press tour this week, one thing was clear: streaming services are here to stay.

And they're growing. Fast.

FX Network CEO John Landgraf took to the TCA stage for his semi-annual presentation on the state of television and the challenges in dealing with Silicon Valley-funded streaming competition.

"He spent a lot of time talking about the different business models that are steering different parts of television and the media industry," said The Hollywood Reporter television critic Daniel Fienberg.

Landgraf, who coined the term "peak TV," also discussed the contrasting demands of people who produce content for Silicon Valley versus the people who work for broadcast networks.

In other words, as Fienberg said: "The people who have the ability to spend bottomless wells of money on their programming versus people who work for networks that have to actually make profit."

Fienberg says it would be impossible not to take Landgraf's statements as criticism of the streaming giant Netflix, which in turn released a press release during his presentation announcing the acquisition of "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs," a western anthology series from Joel and Ethan Coen.

On top of that, earlier in the week the Walt Disney Company revealed plans to launch two streaming services. Disney is the parent company of networks such as ESPN and ABC.

Like the very medium it covers, the TCA press tour spared no expense on drama. The Frame spoke with Daniel Fienberg for a recap of the final days of the event.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

On John Landgraf speaking truth to power in his presentation:

I think he has plenty of power himself so he's speaking truth, I think, to himself. And I think that's part of actually what he does. I think more than any other network executive we talk to at these biannual events, he's a guy who's prepared to come each year with a set of talking points and then doesn't stick to those. He's willing to talk about anything anyone wants to talk about. He's able to lay out a ... view of the industry in a way that very few people are able to do because most of the executives we talk to are so busy trying to keep their jobs.

On the struggles between streaming giants such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu versus traditional TV networks:

There continue to be the general protestations [from the networks] of, Yes, we're still relevant. Yes, this is still the most bang for your buck. Yes, this is still the center and spine of the industry. On the other hand, you look at all of the different platforms that these different networks are announcing and pushing, so whether it's CBS ... more aggressively pushing CBS All Access ... whether it's FX announcing its streaming platform... everyone is trying to make it possible for more people to see more TV in more different ways, and there's no sense at all of contraction.

On whether TV networks are attempting to become more creative in the changing media landscape:

That's one of the major concerns that many of us had looking at the broadcast slate for the Fall, that there is really very little evidence of networks looking way far out of the box. And there's very little evidence that the edge of the envelope is being pushed in this particular part of the industry. So there are some shifts in terms of structure and form, but in terms of big swings there are virtually none on the network slates. And it's a little worrisome.

On the similarities between the White House press corps and the TCA members:

I think that is what the TCA press tour at its very best is. It's a chance for network heads — many of whom are heads of publicly-traded companies — to get up in front of a room of reporters whose questions ideally should be serious and pointed and relevant and attempting to get to the root of the future of the industry and lessons learned from the past. I think I can confidently say that, at least at this moment, the TCA and the people we cover have a much better and healthier relationship than the White House press corps in the current White House.

To hear John Horn's full interview, click on the player above.

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