PASADENA, Calif. ― The head of FX on Thursday warned of a prolonged period of uncertainty in the TV industry, and expressed concern the current cost-cutting across Hollywood could set back progress on diversity.
At a presentation to reporters at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, FX chairman John Landgraf said 2022 marked another all-time high in the “peak TV” era, continuing his semi-annual tradition of tracking and predicting the state of the TV industry. In 2022, there were at least 599 original scripted shows on TV in the U.S. That marks a 7% increase from 2021, meaning that his prediction last summer — that peak TV had already peaked — was incorrect.
However, he thinks maybe this time he’ll be right, citing the unsustainability of both producing and consuming that much TV.
“I think we have a strong indication that we’re going to start to see a decline beginning in 2023,” Landgraf said, pointing out that there were fewer shows in the second half of 2022 than the first: 248 shows, a 2% decline from that same period in 2021.
Much of the morning’s questions from reporters were about the cost-cutting and belt-tightening happening across Hollywood right now. Many people across the entertainment industry fear it could set back progress on diversity and inclusion, a concern Landgraf said he shares.
“I’m always concerned about it,” Landgraf told HuffPost, noting that the entertainment industry often targets its metrics for success toward the white male demographic. “I do think you have to measure the success of programming for all other components of American society carefully, and you have to decide purposefully that you want to reach those audiences.”
He noted that the past several years of peak TV produced “a really positive benefit, which is that a lot of new people got opportunities in the industry. So then you worry when there’s a narrowing process, who loses opportunity, right? Is it the last person that got an opportunity, and does that not favor diverse voices?”
Yet he also struck a note of optimism (including touting the diverse range of programming and creators at FX and FX’s parent company Disney), and suggested he’s not as concerned about the long run.
“I’d really like to leave the industry with a sense that [diversity] is just a part of the normal course of business, right? It’s just a part of who we are, which hasn’t been the case for most of its 100 years. So that’s a permanent job for me,” he said. “I think you always have cause for concern. But I also want to have cause for optimism, that the work we’re doing is sustaining and permanent and thoughtful, and it’s real change, not just cosmetic change.”
Landgraf’s panel with reporters came the same day HBO Max announced a price increase, amid ongoing cost-cutting decisions to remove titles from the service due to licensing fees. He said he does not expect FX to take similar steps at the moment.
“But I wouldn’t rule anything out,” he continued, citing the larger period of instability and uncertainty across an industry still adjusting to new distribution models, such as the explosion of streaming. “We’re just in the middle of a period of radical transformation from the pre-Internet era to the post-Internet era, and we’re in the really bumpy part of that transition.”