TV Peaks Again in 2016: Could It Hit 500 Shows in 2017?

Don’t expect the dizzying expansion of television to slow down. If anything, scripted TV is almost certain to set another record in 2017.

According to FX Research, 455 scripted original programs aired on American television in 2016.

That all-time high is almost three dozen more than were released in 2015, the year FX president John Landgraf coined the term “Peak TV.” In the middle of 2015, some critics found it “moderately terrifying” that there might be 400 scripted shows that year. FX Research, which constantly updates its data, now says that 421 scripted programs arrived in 2015.

To take stock of this explosion, Variety asked FX Research to tabulate how many scripted shows there were in 2006, and they came up with 192. That means that over the course of a decade, the amount of scripted TV went up by 137%.

The rapid expansion of cable and streaming programming drove much of the increase, and as deep-pocketed players like Amazon, HBO and Netflix continue their acquisition sprees, that’s unlikely to change in the new year.

How will programs stand out in this vast sea of content? That’s a good question, given that there is a lot more TV out there, but the number of people and outlets covering it has not expanded at a similar rate. There’s no doubt that marketing and publicity staffs will be working harder than ever in the new year to make sure that even a fraction of a show’s potential viewership knows their network’s fare exists.

In other words, the second seasons of “Stranger Things,” “Atlanta” and “This Is Us” won’t have trouble getting a lot of press. For hundreds of other shows, it’s going to be a much tougher row to hoe.   

Could the number of scripted programs hit 500 next year? Looking at the steady rise in FX’s chart, that seems a sure thing. But Julie Piepenkotter, FX’s executive vice president of research, told Variety it’s still too soon to tell.

“While it’s a reasonable bet that 2017 will hover around the 500 mark,” Piepenkotter said, “I’m going to go with Yogi Berra: ‘It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.’”

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