News & Updates

  • FX CEO John Landgraf on the ‘Racially Biased’ System and Taking Major Steps to Change His Network’s Director Rosters

    Posted by on August 12, 2016



    In the 2014-15 TV season, only 12% of FX’s directors were women or people of color, according to DGA statistics.

    Though many networks, particularly in cable and streaming, have similarly spotty track records, FX’s was the worst, and a 2015 Variety article drawing attention to widespread inequality in the hiring of directors prompted the network to take action.

    At the moment, 51% of the directors booked by FX and FXX are men and women of color, or white women.

    “We set a goal that wasn’t incremental but quantum, in terms of what we wanted to achieve,” FX CEO John Landgraf said in an interview with Variety. “Part of it is, if you’re going to go from a laggard to a leader, try to get to something you can actually achieve and sustain that looks like real change.”

    Landgraf has been trying to expand FX’s array of creators as well. Donald Glover’s “Atlanta” and Pamela Adlon’s “Better Things,” both of which premiere in September, are among the results of those efforts. But Landgraf noted that it’s “easier to solve the problem more quickly with directors than with writers,” given that most directors are freelancers who don’t stay with one series full-time.

    “I hadn’t been really focused on directors, I had been more focused on this question of storytellers in the broad sense, and how do we get everyone’s story told — not just white males,” Landgraf said. “How do we get the right shows, the right executive producers? Because ultimately that changes the composition of the way a story is told and presented and it does ultimately change the composition of the employee base.”

    Regarding directors, “we just happened to all be working in a system that was racially biased, and weren’t taking responsibility for stepping up and acknowledging that and saying, ‘OK, we will be the change,’” he added.

    It’s worth noting that the statistics released annually by the DGA and the numbers FX shared with Variety have been tabulated differently; it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. DGA stats are published on a year-to-year basis (and the guild will be releasing its report in a few weeks). FX, on the other hand, considered the most recent seasons of its comedy and drama series and the upcoming seasons of shows that have not yet debuted; thus the time frame covered by their data set is longer than a single year.

    On their 17 series — from “The Americans” and “The People v. O.J. Simpson” to the upcoming “Legion,” “Atlanta” and “Better Things” — there are a total of 170 director slots. Twenty-one of those slots are as yet unfilled. Of the 149 directing jobs that have been booked, 76 — more than half — have gone to men and women of color and white women. The breakdown is as follows: 73 slots went to white men (49%); 32 directing gigs went to men of color (21%); 11 jobs went to women of color (7%); and 33 helming jobs went to white women (22%). 

    “I wish I had done it years ago,” Landgraf said. “The thing that’s most exciting to me about this is that this group of people has proven that it’s just a matter of priorities. It’s just a matter of will, and it can be done. Nobody really can say, ‘It can’t be done,’ or ‘It’ll take 10 years to do it.’ It can be done now.”

    Landgraf’s first step was to send a letter to showrunners in January telling them that diversifying the pool of directors was a significant priority. “I don’t like to bigfoot the showrunners,” Landgraf said. The letter conveyed the idea that showrunners retain final decision-making power and that “We are not basically swinging a sledgehammer at you and your process.”

    That said, the letter connoted the urgency of the desire for change, stated that FX executives would extend every possible resource to showrunners who wanted help finding diverse candidates, and encouraged creators to step up their own searches as well.

    The credit for the turnaround, Landgraf said, goes to the showrunners themselves; to the team led by Jonathan Frank, FX’s executive vice president of current series; and to Nicole Bernard, executive vice president of audience strategy for the Fox Television Group.

    “They’re the ones that went out and did it,” Landgraf said. “I think what Jonathan did and Nicole Bernard did is test the theory that there isn’t a large enough and available enough pool to fill these slots. And I was very heartened by the showrunners’ willingness to put their time and their energy in service of this — to take it seriously.”

    “No one can rightly argue that this cannot be achieved or that achieving it would cause some hardship from a commercial standpoint or qualitative standpoint,” he added. In 2016, the year in which it set out to expand its directorial talent pool, FX set a record for the number of Emmy nominations received by a basic-cable network.

    Frank said he and his team looked for candidates who may or may not have had TV-directing experience, but who could show, through some past work, that they had “an aptitude for finding character moments and emotional moments and could execute them and translate them so that they shine through,” he said.

    “A lot of networks care about, did they make their days, are they on budget?” Frank said. “If someone’s horrible and always goes over budget, that’s a red flag. But for me, the onus of that falls more on the production, to make sure the train’s moving smoothly. For me, it’s about how they communicate with the producers, how they take the showrunner’s vision and execute it, and how they work with actors.”

    Though Frank and his team met with a wide array of directors, some of whom had been stuck in “procedural jail” and wanted to break into the kind of character-driven stories FX and FXX are known for, part of the idea was to feed new TV directors into the system so that FX (and other networks) can continue to hire them. That goal is starting to pay off. Hiro Murai, who came from the world of music videos and who directed the pilot for “Atlanta,” impressed Frank so much that he recommended him to an executive producer of another FX show. 

    Thomas Schlamme, a director and executive producer of “Snowfall” met Murai, “looked at his stuff and booked him onto ‘Snowfall,’ which is by all accounts a very different show than ‘Atlanta,’” Frank said.

    “I think we’ve worked with more first-time showrunners than probably any channel, and here we sit right at the top of the heap in terms of quality,” Landgraf said. “We haven’t done that by hiring blue-chip brand names, we’ve done that by breaking” talent.

    “White males are only, depending on how you count them, somewhere between 31% and 36% of the U.S. population. There’s nothing in my mind that says they ought to have 50% of the directing jobs,” Landgraf noted of the network’s yearlong efforts. “It’s not a panacea. It’s a beginning.”


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  • 2017 Hispanic/Latino Media & Marketing International Conference

    Posted by on August 12, 2016


    The International Conference on Hispanic/Latino Media and Marketing is the largest convergence of academics, media professionals, and students from universities in Spain, Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United States, welcoming approximately 150 attendees each year and growing. This year the conference will take place at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) on February 16-18.  Top scholars and professionals in Latino media, communications, and marketing will share insight on reaching out and connecting with the nation’s and region’s largest growing demographic group.  The call for papers and panel proposals can be found here:  The deadline for submission is September 15, 2016. 

    For more information please contact Inez González at [email protected]

  • ‘Black-ish’ creator says sitcom is for everyone: ‘I get so tired of talking about diversity’

    Posted by on August 12, 2016



    Don't be fooled by the title, the hit comedy "Black-ish" is a show for everyone.

    The sitcom's showrunner, Kenya Barris, confessed he's sick of his show being profiled as if it's only for black viewers.

    "I would be so happy when 'diversity' is not a word," he said at Thursday's Television Critics Association summer conference.

    "These are amazing, talented actors who are giving it their all. We're so tired of talking about diversity at every panel. The question of diversity clouds the conversation," he continued.

    'Blackish' to air episode on police brutality on black teen

    The comedy stars Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross as parents of four youngsters raised in an upper middle class family.

    Fans and critics have loved the show since its 2014 premiere. It has won a Peabody Award and is up for three Emmy awards this year.

    But its success has less to do with diversity, and more to do with the universal theme of family, Barris said.

    Proving his point, he revealed the series' viewers are mainly white and 23% African American.

    "It's ridiculous: Everything is about black and white," he said. "It doesn't matter who's watching our show. What counts is, they're watching it."

    Ross agreed, arguing the topic of diversity often does more harm than good.

    "Sometimes those questions can skew the conversation in a direction that does not help the conversation," she continued.

    "Is that a question that you've asked other shows that are not predominately of a certain color?" she asked a reporter, who confessed he "necessarily" hadn't, according to Variety magazine.

    Anderson echoed their comments, recalling fans who told him: "When I see your family up there on that screen, I see mine."

    "Black-ish" returns for its third season on Sept. 21.


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  • Is Diversity on TV Really Getting Better?

    Posted by on August 12, 2016

    by Kevin Fallon
    More than a dozen stars, executives, and TV creators from HBO, ‘black-ish,’ and more reveal the surprising truth about diversity—or the lack thereof—in television.

    “I’ve had one casting director who was literally like, ‘I need you to be as black as possible,’” comedian Nicole Byer remembered. “And then she was like, ‘If you go too black, I’ll bring you back.’”

    She feigned horror as she relives the tale. “I was like, ‘What does that mean?’ Like, ‘If I pull out a knife and like shank you, like is that too far?’”

    Byer is riffing on her experience as a young black actress auditioning in Hollywood, where “can you be more urban?” and “can you have more edge?” have coded what might sadly be a uniform experience for aspiring actors of color: limited opportunity, and limited humanity.

    But when her new TV series Loosely Exactly Nicole premieres on MTV this fall, it will allow Byer to finally play a version of herself—and the full, diverse spectrum of what that means.

    During the first week of the bi-annual Television Critics Association press tour, in which networks parade their upcoming TV shows for firing-squad press conferences before TV reporters, the word “diversity” was on the tip of the tongue.

    Even if not everyone wanted it to be.

    Destined breakout star Issa Rae had everyone whispering ecstatic things over her unique comic perspective during her presentation for HBO’s Insecure.

    Netflix brought director Baz Luhrmann and the cast of The Get Down, a mythical look at the 1970s Bronx that marks not only the most expensive production for a TV series centered around a story of color, but any television series ever. (As has been famously reported, the production budget for The Get Down landed in the Marvel-esque ballpark of $120 million. Luhrmann, for what it’s worth, claims that Netflix’s other fall series, The Crown, is actually more expensive.)

    The TCA organization even assembled a special panel titled “Diversity in TV,” in which talent, producers, and executives from shows including Starz’s Survivor's Remorse and WGN's Underground discussed why there are so few meaningful representations of diversity within mainstream programming, and what hurdles still exist towards changing the future of storytelling in this, our post-Shondaland world.

    And so it was jarring when the creators and talent from ABC’s black-ish took the stage, near the end of a week that was essentially defined by discussion over diversity in television, and they had a quite definitive and effective message.

    “I’m so tired of talking about diversity,” a very frustrated and impassioned black-ish creator Kenya Barris said.

    The (perhaps inelegantly-phrased) question he was responding to was from a TCA reporter who asked what the race demographic breakdown of the show is, and how it affects its writing.

    “I would be so happy when diversity is not a word,” Barris said, kicking off his room-igniting answer. “And I’m constantly having to talk about diversity.”

    He looked at the show’s cast seated next to him, praised their talents, and then continued. “I’m so tired of talking about diversity. These are amazing, talented actors who give their all and don’t have to do this. It’s clouding the conversation.”

    Star Tracee Ellis Ross jumped in: “I actually have a question. Is that a question that you’ve asked other shows that are not predominantly of a certain color?”

    The reporter was candid. “Not necessarily.” And then: “But I don’t think it’s an unfair question either.”

    Ross’s brilliant response: “Sometimes those questions continue the conversation in the direction that does not help the conversation.”

    And here’s the thing: Everyone is right.


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  • CBS ‘Toying’ With Commercial-Free All Access Option

    Posted by on August 12, 2016



    CBS is considering creating a commercial-free option for its subscription streaming service CBS All Access.

    “We’re toying with the idea of a commercial free option and how we might roll that out to consumers,” Marc DeBevoise, president of CBS Interactive said Wednesday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour.

    DeBevoise spoke about CBS’ plans for its streaming service, which was introduced in 2014 and charges $6 a month for access to current CBS series, live streaming of local CBS stations and access to CBS library content. Current series viewing includes advertisements. CBS executives have spoken previously in public about the possibility of an ad-free version of All Access.

    The first All Access original series, a new version of longtime CBS reality series “Big Brother,” will premiere on the service this fall, with more originals — including “Star Trek: Discovery” and a spinoff of “The Good Wife” — following next year.

    Those original series will feature advertisements, DeBevoise said, but “the commercial load is a limited commercial load.” It will be roughly 25% lighter than the ad load for broadcast, or around 12 minutes per hour.

    DeBevoise did not say how much CBS might charge for a commercial-free version of All Access.

    CBS’ plan is to premiere four new original series on All Access in the next year, then ramp up the programming slate in subsequent years. That, however, puts the service far behind the output of streaming king Netflix, which — as FX CEO John Landgraf reported Monday — has ordered 71 original scripted series.

    “We’re going to ramp from there incrementally, but not in the multiples you see on Netflix,” DeBevoise said.

    DeBevoise noted that CBS expects 15 million people to tune in when “Star Trek: Discovery” premieres on the company’s core broadcast network in January. (Subsequent episodes will be available exclusively on All Access.) He then introduced “Star Trek: Discovery” showrunner Bryan Fuller, who revealed a smattering of story details about the upcoming series. But DeBevoise also spoke briefly about the spinoff of “The Good Wife,” which CBS confirmed in May that it was developing, and it’s upcoming version of “Big Brother”

    “If you think of ‘Star Trek’ … as more male and maybe older, the same thing may be true with ‘Good Wife’ in a different demo, the same thing may be true of ‘Big Brother’ in a different demo,” DeBevoise said. “I think you can see us testing the waters in each of these areas and potentially doubling down on all of them or some of them as we grow the service.”

    CBS in January announced that CBS Television Studios executive Julie McNamara had been named executive vice president of original content for CBS All Access, becoming the streaming service’s first original-content chief, reporting to DeBevoise and studio president David Stapf.


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  • Jennifer Lopez to Star as Drug Lord Griselda Blanco in HBO Film

    Posted by · August 12, 2016




    HBO is developing a film about Griselda Blanco with Jennifer Lopez attached to play the notorious drug lord, Variety has learned.

    The film focuses on the rise and fall of Blanco, the drug lord known as “The Cocaine Godmother” who revolutionized the U.S. drug trade during the 1970s and 1980s and became the most powerful female cartel member of all time.

    In addition to starring, Lopez will serve as an executive producer with her Nuyorican Productions banner producing the project. No other casting has been announced at this point.

    “I’ve been fascinated by the life of this corrupt and complicated woman for many years,” Lopez commented. “The idea of teaming with HBO felt like the perfect fit for finally bringing Griselda’s story to life.”

    Lopez will exec produce along with Nuyorican’s Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Benny Medina, plus LBI Entertainment’s Julie Yorn and Rick Yorn. Co-exec producers are Alex Pettyfer, Nuyorican’s Priscilla Porianda and LBI’s Patrick Walmsley.

    The project adds to Lopez’s growing on-screen slate — she currently stars on NBC’s drama “Shades of Blue,” which is heading into its second season, and was a judge on “American Idol,” which wrapped its final season this spring.

    For Nuyorican Prods., this project is the latest for Lopez’s growing company. NBC recently announced a new reality dance competition, “World of Dance,” with Lopez exec producing. Lopez, Goldsmith-Thomas and Medina are exec producers on “Shades of Blue,” and produced Lopez’s indie hit “The Boy Next Door” in 2015. Lopez and Goldsmith-Thomas are also behind Freeform’s “The Fosters.”

    For HBO, this is the second recent project announced with a high-profile star, as Oprah Winfrey is starring in the television adaptation of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” for the premium cabler.

    Lopez is repped by CAA.

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  • Netflix fuelling TV show spending spree

    Posted by · August 12, 2016

    by Tech Central


    The television industry will make a record number of shows in 2017, as streaming services Netflix, Amazon and Hulu propel a swell in production that’s creating an oversupply, veteran Fox executive John Landgraf has said.

    The television industry will make a record number of shows in 2017, as streaming services Netflix, Amazon and Hulu propel a swell in production that’s creating an oversupply, veteran Fox executive John Landgraf said during his semi-annual presentation for critics.

    TV networks will make 500 original scripted shows in 2017, almost 20% more than the 419 produced in 2015, which was itself a record, according to Landgraf, CEO of 21st Century Fox’s FX Networks. Netflix alone will make 71 shows — not counting the service’s growing number of kids series, documentaries, movies and foreign-language programming.

    The escalation in production poses a danger for TV networks and the media companies that own them, Landgraf warned. By producing more programming than viewers can watch, networks are losing money on a lot of shows.

    “We are ballooning into oversupply, and that balloon will eventually deflate,” Landgraf said. “I continue to believe there is a greater supply of TV than can be produced profitably.”

    Cable TV continues to be Fox’s biggest business. Last quarter, revenue grew by 9,9% to US$3,9bn for the unit, while profit fell slightly to $1,2bn. The company is planning new investments in programming with $200m to refresh the schedule at the National Geographic network and expand original series at FX.

    It’s not the first time Landgraf has sounded this warning about oversupply. He’s widely credited with coining the term “peak TV” at the Television Critics Association tour a couple years ago. Peak TV is the notion that the industry is producing shows at an unsustainable rate, and is overwhelming viewers — and critics.

    Yet the growing ambitions of online streaming services took the industry by surprise. Landgraf mistakenly had predicted a decline in production by 2017. Now he says that won’t happen until at least 2019.

    Netflix has been a particular target for the former NBC executive, who uses this presentation twice a year to hold court on the state of the TV business, woo critics and embrace his inner Cassandra.

    netflix-640Tech Central

    Landgraf said his rivals in Los Gatos, California are secretive and don’t apply the same human touch to all their shows. Netflix spends six times as much money on shows as FX and will soon produce more shows than HBO, Showtime, Starz and FX combined, said Landgraf, who has run FX since 2005.

    Netflix said earlier this year that it will spend $5bn on programming in 2016, exceeding any other US TV network. To help pay for that growing budget, the company raised prices for millions of US and foreign users. With more than 47m customers in the US, exceeding any domestic premium cable network, Netflix is spending more on original series made in foreign languages to reach customers in newer markets.

    Netflix concession

    Netflix didn’t respond to a request for comment on Landgraf’s remarks, but weighed in on claims of peak TV during its presentation for critics on 27 July. After repeatedly rejecting the notion of peak TV in the past, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos conceded that there were too many bad shows being made. No one ever complained about too much of a good thing, Sarandos said.

    Netflix earned the third-most Emmy nominations of any network this year — one spot behind FX.

    Landgraf’s criticism of Netflix didn’t stop FX from selling its rival the rights to American Crime Story, a critically and commercially successful miniseries about the murder trial of football player OJ Simpson. The show, the network’s biggest new hit of the year, also garnered the second-most Emmy nominations of any TV series this year.

    “It was an unprecedented deal,” Landgraf said. “It was a phenomenal deal from a financial standpoint.”  — (c) 2016 Bloomberg LP

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