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In the Post-Peak TV Era, It's All About Quality Over Quantity

While previewing what's ahead for FX, chairman John Landgraf touted The Bear and the binge model.
  • Jeremy Allen White and Lionel Boyce in The Bear (Photo: FX)
    Jeremy Allen White and Lionel Boyce in The Bear (Photo: FX)

    For better or worse, the television landscape is constantly changing and evolving. As Hollywood returns to work after the dual strikes, there are a lot of questions about what the future of TV looks like — and who better to address the state of the industry than FX boss John Landgraf? Speaking at the 2024 Television Critics Association winter press tour on Friday, the executive touted the network’s upcoming slate of shows and explained why they’re going all in on the binge-watching model.

    In delivering his team’s annual report card, Landgraf shared that 516 adult original scripted shows were produced in 2023, down from 2022’s number of 600. This significant drop seemingly confirms his big prediction from last year: we’ve finally hit the end of Peak TV.

    “Last winter, I finally predicted correctly after a number of sincere, but premature and wrong guesses that we had hit the peak and would start to see a decline,” Landgraf said. While he acknowledged that the dual strikes “undoubtedly played a role” in the decline, he also believes the shift was likely in the works even before productions shuttered. “The realignment of industry priorities from streaming scale at any cost to profitability continued after the strikes ended, leading to the cancellation of numerous projects and series,” he noted.

    So, what can viewers expect from FX in this post-Peak TV era? The answer lies in The Bear.

    The Emmy-winning comedy, which stars Jeremy Allen White as restaurant owner Carmy, will return for its third season in June. Other returning FX shows include part two of American Horror Story: Delicate, Welcome to Wrexham Season 3, The Old Man Season 2, American Horror Stories Season 4, and the sixth and final season of What We Do in the Shadows. Also in the lineup are new shows like The Veil, Say Nothing, English Teacher, Dying for Sex, American Sports Story, Clipped, and Shōgun. But the number one item on the menu is more binge-watching.

    Landgraf explained that The Bear being such an “anxiety-inducing” series led to the network’s decision to drop the episodes all at once. “I talked to a friend and colleague at the platform the day after we dropped [Season 1],” he said. “And she said, ‘There are currently 100,000 concurrent streams right now in America watching the eighth episode’ the day after we dropped the whole thing.”

    Though Landgraf admitted they debated “milk[ing] it” and spreading Season 2 out as a weekly release, the network ultimately decided to stick to the binge model. “And I have no doubt we’ll keep doing it,” he added.

    It turns out, this huge number of binge-watchers isn’t unique to The Bear — or even limited to shows released under the binge model. As an example, Landgraf cited the weekly-release series A Murder at the End of the World. “That's a murder mystery that is designed to be a cliffhanger but then does have the answer,” he said. “You can watch the whole thing in seven episodes. A lot of people wait, and they consume it later.”

    This, Landgraf explained, all comes back to the network’s ultimate goal of creating a “deep library” with a focus on creating high-quality shows — even if there are fewer long-running ones going forward as a consequence.

    “We’ve radically increased the cost of making television in season one. We brought a lot of wonderful talent into television, but there’s been a spiraling and escalating cost. That’s part of what happens when we make 600 television shows,” Landgraf reflected. He noted that in the past, they could “afford to renew and believe in” shows like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The Shield due to their modest budgets.

    “I can tell you that one of my greatest priorities at FX is to try to figure out how to make television,” he continued. “I want to figure out how to make the next deep library. And I think that is to the advantage of Hulu and the Walt Disney Company if we can figure out how to do it.”

    Kelly Martinez is an entertainment freelance writer covering all things TV, movies, and fandoms. She is based in Los Angeles.

    TOPICS: FX, The Bear, John Landgraf, Peak TV