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FX chief John Landgraf predicts more TV than ever before

John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks, speaking in

John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks, speaking in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Aug. 9, 2017. Credit: Getty Images / Frederick M. Brown

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — The televised revolution continues: There could be as many as 534 scripted series on TV this year, up from 455 in 2016, according to FX Networks CEO John Landgraf.

Addressing a ballroom full of TV writers at the summer TV Critics Association tour, he made a further observation — drolly, and also redundantly — that none of them would be able to watch, much less review, the exploding bounty. He added that a total of 141 streaming series across major services like Hulu and Netflix will also arrive this year — a figure, he conceded, that “will continue to grow” because it does not include any series from Apple, which also jumped into the original programming business this year.

Landgraf typically uses this forum to frame the television business for writers, and Wednesday’s address did not disappoint. By placing the TV industry within the context of deregulatory trends of the past 50 years, he explained that the business is now driven by Silicon Valley, which seeks to place the most power in the fewest hands, notably those of giants like Amazon, Apple and Netflix.

“A good deal of [streaming] programming is produced at a loss,” he said, which is “ultimately driving a fundamental shift in market value. We’re all watching an epic battle unfold for who will control [viewer] attention, and who controls your attention controls the ability to monetize it.”

He added, “This is creating an exhilarating race to the top but also a glut . . . and a race to the bottom in endless volumes in mediocrity in so many areas.”

For the past few years at this event, Landgraf has also said that a fallout will inevitably follow the glut — but he made no such prediction this year. Instead, he indicated that the growth will continue. The only question: How rapidly?

Apple alone has “a quarter of a trillion in cash,” some of which will be spent on programming, he said. “It’s like that footage you’ve seen of riot police shooting cannons of water, only with them it’s cannons of money. That’s what it’s like when you’re competing against them. I have no idea what capital [Apple] will deploy, but we can’t do what they do. No one is going to hand us a check for an extra $10 billion.”

Meanwhile, in other FX news, Landgraf said there’s a possibility there “won’t be a sixth season of ‘Louie.’ ” The Louis CK series last aired in 2015. “He’s run out of things to say about that time of his life.” If it does come back, he said, “it will be a very different show.”

And this: The “Sons of Anarchy” spinoff, “The Mayans,” is on track to join the schedule — although there’s no estimated time of arrival. (The series’ pilot is expected to be reshot this fall.) “I’m very confident about the future of that spinoff. Almost the entire cast is Latino,” he said. “There are definitely some familiar faces [including Edward James Olmos] but a lot of new actors we’ve found that I didn’t know before.”

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