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FX CEO: Viewers in danger of peak TV’s story overload

August 3, 2018
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Danny DeVito, left, and Rob McElhenney, creator/writer/executive producer/actor, participate in a table read during a panel for "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" during the FX Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour at The Beverly Hilton hotel on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Television is in danger of storytelling overload with diminishing returns to viewers, FX Networks’ chief executive said Friday.

His previous caution that there was too much TV was overly narrow, John Landgraf said: “There’s too much story, there’s too much narrative.”

That leads to the “impossibility of surprising the audience, of providing something that seems truly novel, truly new,” he told a TV critics’ meeting.

As the growth of cable and streaming services has steadily expanded the show options available to viewers, Landgraf has become the unofficial scorekeeper of what’s been labeled “peak TV.”

Last January, the veteran TV executive said that the total number of cable, broadcast and streamed series hit an estimated high of 487 in 2017, a 7 percent increase over 2016′s tally of 455. The 117 streamed series from outlets including Netflix and Amazon last year represented the biggest increase, 30 percent, over 2016.

For the year so far, there’s a total of 319 scripted series, a 5 percent increase over the same period last year. Streaming and premium cable are up (46 percent and 42 percent, respectively), with basic cable show volume down 11 percent and broadcast TV down 5 percent compared with 2017.

Peak TV has yet to top out given the “epic battles” for corporate acquisitions, Landgraf said. AT&T recently acquired Time Warner, and the Walt Disney Co. is seeking to purchase much of 21st Century Fox (including FX Networks) — all with an eye toward competing against the robust streaming sector that includes Netflix and Amazon.

An upside of the content explosion is the chance to spur innovation as well as diversity in hiring, Landgraf said. He cited FX Networks’ progress in increasing hiring of women and people of color as actors, directors and writers.

Those are “very important values. But it’s very hard if you’re trying to surprise the audience and delight the audience ... and everything feels vaguely familiar to them,” he said.

Landgraf touted FX’s subscriber growth, which he said counters the “idea that cord-cutting is accelerating” among viewers.

Panels for FX series “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” the final season of “You’re the Worst” and newcomer “Mr Inbetween” were among those held Friday.

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