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The three things that FX Networks looks for to create an award-winning TV show

Reuters/David McNew
He’s not known as the “smartest man in TV” for nothing.
By Ashley Rodriguez
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

FX Networks has racked up an impressive 56 nominations (pdf) in this year’s Emmy season—the most of any basic cable network ever—thanks to critically acclaimed shows like The People v. O.J. Simpson,  Fargo, The Americans, and limited series like American Horror Story.

How did it do it? Under the leadership of president John Landgraf, who was a producer before becoming a network executive, FX gives its creatives huge amounts of support. The showrunners—the producers responsible for the day-to-day output of the show—get FX’s full financial support as well as production backing from in-house studio FX Productions, Vanity Fair reported.

“A lot of times in television, the ambitions of the idea are outstripped by the financial resources provided to tell the story,” Carlton Cuse, the showrunner for the FX thriller The Strain, told the publication. “We have the really good fortune at FX that they recognize what’s necessary, budget-wise.”

FX also doesn’t rely only on ratings to decide whether to renew a show, like Donald Glover’s new critical darling Atlanta (paywall). It gives them a chance to find themselves. Landgraf, known in some circles as “the smartest man in TV,” and FX’s executives consider three core factors: the audience, the people behind the show, and their gut.

TV ratings tell them what audiences think and what advertisers will back, but executives consider the showrunners’ vision as well as the views of critics. Then they ask themselves whether they, as the network, love the show themselves.

A show only needs to hit on two of these three factors to be renewed, Eric Schrier, FX’s president of original programming, said in an interview with the International Business Times.

If judged only by ratings, FX’s spy drama The Americans wouldn’t have made it to its fourth season, for which it received five Emmy nods including nominations for outstanding drama series, lead actress in a drama series, and lead actor in a drama series. The show had double-digit ratings drops during its second and third seasons, and its fourth season had the lowest ratings yet.

“Do I expect the viewership to rise? No, I don’t. I expect the show to do about what it did last year,” Schrier told IBT, referring to The Americans. “I’m fine with that.” The Americans has been renewed for a final two seasons.

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