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FX CEO John Landgraf blasts Netflix for “not telling you the whole story”

Is You really the smash that Netflix says it is? What about Sex Education? Its most public scold says don’t believe the hype.

FX CEO John Landgraf blasts Netflix for “not telling you the whole story”
[Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images]

FX CEO John Landgraf continued his years-long blitzkrieg against Netflix on Monday at the annual, winter Television Critics Association gathering in Pasadena, California. One of Hollywood’s most vocal critics of the streaming giant, Landgraf has long bemoaned the fact that Netflix is able to declare that some of its shows are “hits,” despite the fact that it does not play the ratings game. 

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Rather, Netflix releases its own stats on a highly selective basis. At TCA, Landgraf blasted this practice, using the show You as an example. After bringing the psychological thriller over to Netflix from Lifetime, where it had been a dud, Netflix recently boasted that 40 million people were expected to watch the show on Netflix within its first four months on the platform.

Landgraf called that proclamation a “not remotely accurate representation of a longform program performance.” 

Instead he cited Nielsen data saying that the actual viewership of You was one-fifth of what Netflix has claimed. “An average audience of 8 million viewers is good. But its not as good as 40 million, which would make you the number one show on television.”

According to Landgraf, the Netflix original show Sex Education has similarly not been the 40-million-viewers bonanza that Netflix has claimed. Landgraf said the actual audience for the show was only 3.1 million. 

“The source of those numbers: Netflix,” Landgraf said. “But Netflix is not telling you the whole story.” 

“TV content providers take hundreds of at-bats,” he went on. “You’re going to get some singles, some doubles, and some home runs.” But Netflix has never released data on any of its outs, while misrepresenting, he says, how big its successes are. He accused the company of creating the “myth of a magic bullet that has eluded everyone since the beginning of television.” 

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“Netflix has some good shows and numerous hits,” he continued. “But creative failure is inevitable and no one is exempt.”  

Landgraf has reason to feel particularly stung by Netflix these days—last year the company poached Glee and American Horror Story showrunner Ryan Murphy from 20th Century Fox TV, FX’s sister production company, in a huge, $300 million deal. 

Beyond Netflix, Landgraf spoke about the race not just for talent, but for content among TV and streaming companies. While HBO and others are ramping up their pipelines, he said, at FX “any increased output . . . will be measured and focused.” 

Any further details will have to wait until the Fox-Disney merger is complete, he said. But in the meantime, “The more I’ve gotten to know (Disney CEO) Bob (Iger), the more optimistic I’ve grown about the future of FX.” 

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About the author

Nicole LaPorte is an LA-based senior writer for Fast Company who writes about where technology and entertainment intersect. She previously was a columnist for The New York Times and a staff writer for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and Variety

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