FX Networks Chief Executive John Landgraf expressed optimism for his cable group by making a smooth transition to Disney ownership, in part because Disney does not have similar channels in its existing television group.
On the surface, the premium adult FX brand-oriented programming would seem a bad fit with Disney's family brand. But Landgraf told reporters on Friday that he heard directly from Disney president and CEO Bob Iger that Disney pursued the $ 52.4 billion deal with 21st Century Fox because it wants to expand the reach of its television production operations. In addition, Iger told Landgraf that he is a fan of the work done by the FX Networks group.
"We have what they want," said Landgraf. "The rarity of (FX) being so different from the Disney brand is a good thing, it means that what we do and know we have does not currently exist within that company."
Landgraf was pressed during his question and answer session on the press tour of the Winter Television Critics Association in Pasadena, California, about his future at the expanded Disney. He said he has not been presented with formal plans on how FX Networks will connect with Disney's existing hierarchy, assuming the agreement is approved by federal regulators, nor has he talked with Iger or anyone about his role.
The search for the assets of 21st Century Fox by Disney is clearly a response to the commotion in the market caused by the entrance of streaming services with a lot of money. Disney needs the content generated by the Fox assets it hopes to acquire to compete on a global scale. Landgraf has been one of the most vocal television executives to raise the alarm about the challenges faced by traditional television channels in competition with companies that have much greater resources.
"One of the reasons (Disney) is that it's getting bigger and bigger to be able to compete against global broadcast services," said Landgraf. FX Networks is about to become the center of premium content for adults for that greater effort. Although there are many unanswered questions about how Disney will implement that vision, "we can see clearly that they believe (premium series) is a really good thing to invest in. It drives consumer interest with a broadcast service. the scripted adult component of their larger plans. "
Landgraf opened his session with a warning about the harmful effects on the national psyche of Internet-driven pop culture that, he said, all too often descends to an "" echoed by Edward R's words Murrow in the early days of television with his serious assessment of how the connectivity of the current era is influencing all aspects of the media, society and culture.
The concern of social media platforms and other Internet-driven communications is worrisome, especially because that huge platform is controlled by a handful of technology giants, Landgraf said. He did not mention names, but it was clear that he was referring to the companies that have been known as FAANG: Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google.
"We have the most powerful tool to distribute, select and shape information the world once knew, but those who control it are not subject to any firm standard of legal or moral responsibility in exchange for huge profits and the power they get, "he said.
Joining forces with Disney and its formidable list of content-producing brands "will undoubtedly help our brand to remain competitive and relevant in the future and in the era of peak TV," said Landgraf. "As the Internet platform, largely unregulated, seems to become a global swallow, the trillion dollar companies, Hollywood, and its old-fashioned approach to storytelling, have no choice but to seek scale needed to compete. "  The influx of money chasing the talent delivered by Netflix et. "Like the creative community, it has exerted enormous pressure on the business" of traditional linear television, he said.
Landgraf said he really has no idea how the extended company will be organized. He believes it is a work in progress within Disney, and noted that the laws and rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission prevent Disney and Fox from doing much in the way of integration before the deal is formally closed. That process is expected to take 12 to 18 months.
"Honestly, I do not think they know yet how to organize this great new company," Landgraf said. "It's going to take time to solve it."
But Landgraf, who has directed FX for the past 15 years, has faith that Disney, under the leadership of Iger, will be careful not to upset the unique culture within the narrow-knit FX Networks team. Landgraf cited Disney's Pixar administration as a good example of how Disney allows units to operate autonomously. He noted that FX Networks has around 270 employees, much smaller than other cable groups of comparable size.
"We can not do what we do if we are not allowed to maintain the integrity of our culture," he said. "I'm optimistic that Disney understands and supports it, they want what we have, what an extraordinary television, critical acclaim, Emmys … They're going to want the best of what we have to offer."