FX's John Landgraf

FX President John Landgraf, pictured here in 2011, said that there's a "massive overlap" in what networks are doing but that the "best kind of show is going to be as unbelievably distinctive" and "very specific." (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

In the ever-changing television landscape, four cable bosses agreed: Competition to find the right, unique show is more prominent than ever before.

At the Produced By Conference on Saturday, Starz CEO Chris Albrecht, FX Network CEO John Landgraf, SundanceTV President Sarah Barnett and Showtime Networks Inc. President David Nevins answered questions about how they approach television programming.

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FOR THE RECORD
An earlier version of this post said David Nevins was Showtime Networks Inc. President of Entertainment. He is Showtime Networks Inc. President.
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“There are a lot of people making premium television,” Nevins said at the panel, titled “Take It From The Top: 10 Questions for the Cable Bosses.” “The pressure to be innovative and not copy what other people are doing really makes it hard right now.”

“You hear a lot of the same pitches but there are only so many slices of the cake,” Albrecht added. “The idea you are going to be original is a challenge.”

When discussing network identity, most of the execs said genre-wise, it’s hard to say what shows they really go for.

 Landgraf said there’s a “massive overlap” in what networks are doing. However, he said the “best kind of show is going to be as unbelievably distinctive” and “very specific.”

“I stay away from shows that are too much like something we already have," Nevins said of Showtime. "I want to feel like we have complicated, progressive television.”

The cable execs said with such a high volume of pitches, choosing a show can be challenging. But when executives find the right show, they all want in.

“David and I were both part of the pack that wanted ‘True Detective,’” Landgraf said of Nevins.

“I thought I had it,” Nevins said.

Barnett said she thinks networks are trying to become what she labeled as “mainstream edgy.”

“The DNA of broadcasting is mutating,” she said. Because of this change, many cable networks are vying for the same types of shows. For example, Albrecht said he heard four different pitches for a show about pirates.

“I think it’s all one ballgame,” he said.