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FX boss Landgraf: Netflix isn’t telling “whole story” around viewership

FX boss John Landgraf has lashed out at Netflix, criticizing the streaming giant’s viewership claims.

The exec, who was speaking at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour in Pasadena, California, on Monday (4 February), said the business is not telling audiences “the whole story” as it does not follow widely accepted viewership metrics that would allow “apples-to-apples comparisons”.

“I just genuinely believe the rules should be made as a common good for everyone,” said Landgraf, who famously predicted at the 2015 TCAs that the industry had reached “peak TV”.

He also said the attitudes of Silicon Valley companies dabbling in content “really, really bothers me.”

Landgraf said that Netflix’s claim of 40m household viewership for both Lifetime co-production You and Sex Education are both incorrect.

The exec pointed out that Sex Education figures are likely closer to 3m average US viewers per episode, citing Nielsen-accepted metrics. Meanwhile, You realistically drew around 8m US viewers.

Landgraf said that Netflix is involved in extensive myth-making around its shows, and which of them are working on the platform.

Stranger Things is absolutely a home run, but it is a huge outlier on the Netflix platform,” he said.

Landgraf said that, according to FX internal research, 2018 saw the debut of 496 scripted original series, consisting of 160 streaming or online shows, 146 broadcast programmes, 145 basic cable shows and 45 pay-cable titles.

The 2018 figures mark a 1.8% year-on-year increase from the 487 scripted original series in 2017. This is due to a boost in online series, although broadcast shows declined overall.

Comparing 2014 to 2018, Landgraf indicated that the number of streaming series has grown by around 385%.

Disney acquisition

Landgraf, whose network is behind such hits as American Crime Story and Feud, called the uncertainty of what the Disney/Fox merger will mean for the network “frustrating”.

“I’m sure that HBO felt the same thing in a much longer period actually [when the AT&T-Time Warner deal was closing]. But the truth is we can speculate and plan all we want, but we can’t be directed, so essentially there’s a lot of work to be done once the deal’s closed to try to hone in on a specific strategy.”

He added that the business has “done a lot of thinking” around where it wants added resources to be channeled.

“Ultimately, we have to present that to Disney [and] they have to decide whether they agree with it, and then they have to decide whether it fits into their larger strategy. So all that has to happen after the transaction closes.”

The exec was categorical that FX, which is known for gritty and heavy-hitting adult fare, “should not be a part of [Disney’s planned streaming platform] Disney Plus”.

“It seems quite clear to me that FX wouldn’t be and shouldn’t be a part of Disney Plus, and shouldn’t really be directly associated with the Disney brand. They’re just too different.

“We’re not a family brand at all, and therefore seems crystal clear it’s going to have to be a component of the Hulu strategy. But exactly how that’s going to work, I can’t tell you.”

Variety first reported Landgraf’s comments and data from the TCAs.