As the fallout from the Disney/Fox merger continues to unfold, one piece of the puzzle is coming into focus: how newly acquired FX will fit into the evolving plans for new streaming platform Disney+. The answer: It won’t.
“I don’t think FX belongs on Disney+ at all,” FX chief John Landgraf told reporters Tuesday during a conference call prelude to Disney’s upfronts presentation. This isn’t shocking given that FX, a network that’s home to some of TV’s most boundary-pushing series, is far from the family-friendly branding associated with Disney+ series and films, which Landgraf described as “PG, PG-13, but mostly G-rated content.”
Where does FX belong? Easy. Landgraf’s comments were made minutes after it was officially announced that Disney had made a deal with Comcast to take over operations of streaming platform Hulu, effective immediately, with a timetable laid out for Disney to eventually assume full ownership.
The various rights deals for FX programming make it complicated to say what will be available when and where. For example, while FX’s “You’re the Worst” is exclusive to Hulu, “The Americans” is streaming exclusively on Amazon, and Ryan Murphy’s “American Crime Story” and “American Horror Story” franchises can be found on Netflix. But looking at the future, ultimately, Landgraf said, FX “belongs on Hulu.”
In a statement, Disney CEO Bob Iger noted that “we are now able to completely integrate Hulu into our direct-to-consumer business and leverage the full power of The Walt Disney Company’s brands and creative engines to make the service even more compelling and a greater value for consumers.” At this time, Disney has not announced how Hulu and Disney+ subscriptions will be offered on a consumer level or what payment tiers will exist when they are under the same corporate parent. IndieWire has reached out for comment.
The idea of FX and Hulu (which is home to plenty of its own TV-MA original programming) eventually becoming the adult side of the Disney media empire is intriguing, because it wouldn’t be the first time that Disney, always super-protective of its brand as a family-friendly company, has found a way to play it safe with the kids while also cater to adults.
For ’80s and ’90s kids, seeing the Touchstone Pictures logo appear at the beginning of a VHS rental would trigger a Pavlovian thrill, the knowledge that this movie wouldn’t pander to G-rated sensibilities. That wasn’t exactly true, but for close to two decades Touchstone was the brand associated with Disney’s more adult fare. Classic films released under that banner include “Pretty Woman,” “Sister Act,” “Ed Wood,” and “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.” Plus, Jerry Bruckheimer Films’ production deal with Disney led to Touchstone films like “Con Air” and “Gone in 60 Seconds” (does this mean that Nicholas Cage is a Disney princess?). Many of the above films, while not perhaps boundary-pushing, were R-rated.
The Touchstone brand has since petered out — it was last in regular use by Disney as part of a co-production deal with DreamWorks, which expired in 2016. But as Disney takes stock of all its new toys, and tries to figure out how best to make them fit with its established business, the wisest thing it could potentially do is not try to make FX conform to the family-friendly world of Disney+, and instead let FX be FX, with its shows eventually landing on Hulu.