FX’s winter 2019 TCA press tour announcements

The future of FX; accurately measuring audiences; programming updates for ‘Legion,’ ‘Fargo,’ ‘Atlanta’ and more

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FX Networks shared a number of notable announcements and updates at its winter 2019 Television Critics Association (TCA) press tour in Pasadena, California yesterday. During the executive session, John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks and FX Productions, recapped FX’s accolades this past year, addressed the need for applying broadly accepted industry-standard metrics to streaming content and answered questions about FX’s upcoming slate of programming.

FX’s future
In his opening remarks, John briefly discussed FX’s future as a wholly owned business of The Walt Disney Company once the transaction with 21st Century Fox closes.

“I’m very proud that [Bob Iger, Chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company] sought out FX as many of our 20th Century Fox sister companies to help build his vision for the future of Disney,” John said. “He has stated publicly that the acquisition of FX will not change the FX brand. He’s also indicated that he would like FX as well as many other creative brands at Disney to increase our output in support of their streaming strategy.”

John added that despite the prospect of greater resources, “any increased output at FX will be measured and focused with an unwavering dedication to the qualitative ambition and high batting average that both FX and Disney have shown to date.”

Another successful year
FX, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary this June, enjoyed what was arguably the best year in its history, John said. Among the highlights were:

  • “The Americans” going out on a high note
  • “Atlanta” earning 14 Emmy nominations, more than any other comedy series
  • “Pose” as a big win for diversity and FX
  • “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” winning the Emmy, Golden Globe, TCA and AFI awards for best limited series – “a clean sweep”

Digging more into the numbers and recapping year-end best lists, John shared that 13 out of FX’s 14 series in 2018 made a critic’s “best shows of 2018” list, which is a 93 percent conversion rate. That sits above the 80 percent the network has averaged for the past few years.

FX also measured favorably against its competition, with 259 inclusions in lists that name the 10 best shows of 2018; Netflix led with 273 and HBO was third with 225. When you look at only shows ranked No. 1 by critics in 2018, FX led the way with 53 top shows, followed by BBC America with 20, Netflix with 14 and HBO with seven.

“So just to underscore the point, FX had less than 3 percent as many at-bats as Netflix, but we had almost four times as many No. 1 rankings on year-end best lists,” John said.

Misleading audience figures (and the larger issue at hand)
Netflix recently announced that its show “You” was watched by more than 40 million member households in its first four weeks. “However, if you dig a little deeper, Netflix is not telling you the whole story, because the numbers they issued do not follow the universally understood television metric – the one you and prior generations of reporters have been using for their whole careers – which is ‘average audience,’” John told the TV critics in attendance.

Using Nielsen’s Subscription Video On Demand Content Rating Service, which adds up every minute viewed of an episode or season and divides it by the total duration of the program, the actual audience for Netflix’s “You” in its first four weeks was about 8 million viewers in the U.S. per episode.

By using specious numbers and data, Netflix has given the press and critics a deceiving view of just how many hits and misses it has, John said. Without accurate, comparable scorecards, “we are all hard-pressed to know what is real and what is not.”

Later John explained the larger stakes of this conversation: “[It’s] just not a good thing for society when one entity or one person gets to unilaterally make the rules or pronounce the truth… I just don’t like the notion that any one entity gets to decide what is true and tell you what is true and make their own news without your being able to check the facts or ask questions or do what journalists do. That bothers me on a fundamental level.”

Programming updates
During his opening remarks and the Q&A time, John shared some updates on FX programming, including:

  • “What We Do in the Shadows” premieres on FX Wednesday, March 27, as announced before John’s executive session
  • “Y: The Last Man” was ordered to series at FX, as announced before John’s session; it will premiere in 2020
  • “Archer” Season 10 premieres in April
  • The New York Times docuseries “The Weekly” premieres on FX in June
  • The next season of “Pose” premieres in June
  • The third and final season of “Legion” premieres in June
  • More installments of “American Horror Story” and “American Crime Story” are expected
  • FX has ordered a number of to-be-announced docuseries and documentaries that fit inside the FX brand
  • “Fargo” Season 4 will go into production this winter but doesn’t have a premiere date set
  • There’s a “good chance” that “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” will run beyond Season 14 (the last one FX has currently ordered)
  • “Atlanta” Season 3 won’t be ready for the upcoming Emmy cycle

After the executive session, FX hosted panels for “Fosse/Verdon,” “What We Do in the Shadows,” “Better Things,” “Legion” and “The Weekly.”