A surge in orders from streaming services and basic cable outlets pushed the number of original scripted series available in the U.S. this year to 409 – a staggering volume of programming spread across broadcast, cable and digital outlets that is up 8.7% from 376 in 2014.
Research by FX Networks has found that streaming services — defined as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Crackle and Yahoo – carried 44 scripted series this year, up from 27 last year. Basic cable orders grew to 181 from 169 in 2014.
The tally confirms the prediction made in July by FX Networks CEO John Landgraf, who forecast the total number of original series surpassing the 400 mark this year. Landgraf’s declaration “there is simply too much television” galvanized the industry debate on what has become known as the “peak TV” era.
FX’s research charts a 484% increase in the number of basic cable series since 2002, the year FX launched its network-defining drama “The Shield.” Basic cable is up 174% since 2009, with the biggest leaps coming between 2010 through 2013. Broadcast TV has also been part of the boom, growing from 120 series in 2012 to 147 this year. Pay TV has been relatively flat the past three years, despite Starz and now Epix stepping up their slates.
The exponential increase in programming has ripple effects for the industry, from driving up the cost of physical production to thinning the talent pool at all levels. Landgraf and others have asserted that the program boom is an unsustainable bubble. The growth has come as weaker basic cable channels increasingly feel the pinch of declining ratings, advertising and affiliate revenue amid a changing landscape for distribution. The dawn of the skinny bundle era could greatly impact the ability of smaller channels to fund high-cost original series.
“The unprecedented increase in the number of scripted series has reached a new milestone in 2015 with a record 409, nearly doubling the total in just the past six years,” said Julie Piepenkotter, exec VP of research for FX Networks. “This was the third consecutive year that scripted series count has grown across each distribution platform – broadcast, basic and pay cable, streaming – led by significant gains in basic cable and digital services. This statistic is staggering and almost unimaginable from where they were a decade ago.”
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