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FX chief slams ‘assembly line’ Netflix

Scripted-logo-460_2John Landgraf croppedFX Networks president John Landgraf has criticised the algorithm-based commissioning system of SVOD service Netflix, claiming programmes are “not best made by engineers or coders”.

In a revealing TCA tour session, Langraf (pictured) warned against tech companies such as Netflix treating programming as a commodity, and said his previous prediction that TV drama originals would reach their peak point by 2017 was incorrect.

Landgraf pointed to new FX research that suggests there will be more than 500 original scripted shows on the market by next year, with Netflix accounting for 71 of these (not including overseas programming and kids TV shows).

“It would be bad for storytellers in general if one company was able to seize a 40% or 60% share in storytelling. I don’t think monopoly market shares are good for society, and they’d be particularly bad for society and storytellers if they were achieved in the storytelling genre.”

Landgraf credited Netflix for commissions series such as Masters of None, which he said he admired, but added: “Television shows are not like cars or operating systems, and they are not best made by engineers or coders in the same assembly line manner as consumer products which need to be of uniform size, shape and quality.”

This was referring to the algorithms that Netflix commissions employ to decide what types of programming its subscribers want to see.

Landgraf claimed that the proliferation of new scripted series meant he was pushing his predicted point of decline – from this year or 2017 – to 2019.

He added that while the top 20% of scripted series average 10.5 million viewers in the US, the bottom rung took just 380,000. This meant there were “a whole lot of shows that are losing a ton of money”, he said.

Landgraf also revealed FX’s programming budget was “approximately one-third of HBO’s and about one-sixth of Netflix’s,” suggesting it is around US$1 billion a year. Netflix revealed recently it would soon invest US$6 billion in content this year.

In further news, Landgraf revealed FX sister net FXX would move “aggressively” into animated content.

Both networks are part of Fox Television Group.