Have we hit the peak of Peak TV? According to FX Research, which has been counting the number of shows on TV since it got into the scripted game with “The Shield” twenty years ago, there were 599 adult scripted original series across broadcast, cable and streaming services in 2022 — a new record.
John Landgraf, the chairman of FX Content and FX Productions, continued his tradition of revealing the annual tally on Thursday during FX’s portion of the Television Critics Assn. press tour. According to the FX numbers, the number is up 40 from 2021 (a 7 percent gain), when there 559 shows. That was a big jump from the COVID-impacted dip in 2020 of 493 shows.
“In August I said it would be the 2020s you would find the market peak of a scripted scripted TV series TV series and that is still my bet, while noting with humility that I’ve been wrong on this prediction twice before,” Landgraf said Thursday.
Other than that drop in 2020, it’s been non-stop growth of original scripted series on television since FX first started keeping count in 2002 – the year it entered the scripted originals space with “The Shield.” That year, the number was 182 scripted series on TV (135 on broadcast, 17 on pay cable, 30 on basic cable, and none on streaming/online since that didn’t really exist yet).
In comparison, ten years ago in 2012, as the streaming revolution just got under way, the FX count was at 288 (125 shows on basic cable, 119 on broadcast, 29 on pay cable and 15 on streamers).
FX no longer breaks down its tally by broadcast, network or streaming. And the list doesn’t include non-English language shows (i.e., no “Squid Game”), children’s programs or short-form content (like the former Quibi originals that debuted on Roku).
And it also doesn’t include the avalanche of unscripted series on all platforms, a number that is much bigger than the scripted tally.
FX’s tally does include PBS shows in broadcast, as well as all premium and most Nielsen-rated basic cable networks (as well as Spectrum Originals). Its list of streaming shows includes entries from Acorn TV, ALLBLK, Amazon Freevee, Amazon Prime Video, AMC+, Apple TV+, BET+, BritBox, Crackle, Disney+, Facebook Watch, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, Paramount+, Peacock, Roku, Shudder, Sundance Now, Tubi and YouTube.
In August, Landgraf predicted that 2022 would be another record year, given that through June, there had already been 357 scripted series across broadcast cable and streaming that launched — up 16% from that time in 2021.
But Landgraf also made the proclamation that 2022 would be the true “peak.” “I’m going to foolishly make another prediction, which is that 2022 will be the high watermark” of scripted TV output, Landgraf said during the FX’s summer 2022 TCA session. “In other words, that it will mark the peak of the peak TV era. It will take a year and a half to find out if I’m right this time, or we’ll have to eat crow yet again.”
This wasn’t the first time Landgraf had predicted the peak; in January 2016 he told reporters “this year or next year will be peak TV… I think there will be more in 2016 than 2015, but still think there’s a reasonable prospect for fewer in 2017 than 2016.”
Landgraf later admitted that he hadn’t foreseen the sheer volume that would come with the streaming media explosion, which changed that prediction. The rush of media giants into the subscription-video space pioneered by streamer Netflix changed all that.
But Landgraf’s prediction this time appears to be coming to fruition, given recent budget cuts across the industry and a course correction that began in mid-2022. That has led to cancellations of projects, reversals of greenlights and shelved productions.
“Several years ago, I predicted that very few brands were going to successfully make the transition to streaming and it looks like that’s coming true,” Landgraf said on Thursday.
The 2022 burst can be partly attributed to the tail end of a glut of productions that had been delayed by the pandemic finally getting on the air. Beyond that, Landgraf said in August that he didn’t see any further expansion via new streamers.
“I think all the major streaming services have now launched,” he said at the time. “We’ve seen a notable set of additions of new streaming services join the party in the last couple of years. And I think that process is complete. In other words, I don’t I don’t see new major purveyors of programming entering the scene as they have been continuously over the past decade or more. And in fact, there are some prior purveyors of television programming that are kind of exiting the scenes.
“So, in other words, you’re at the point now where you’re not really adding new suppliers, but you are, to some extent, subtracting suppliers. By the way, I’m not suggesting I think there’ll be any kind of precipitous drop. I really don’t know. As you know, from my prior failure, I don’t have a crystal ball. I can’t predict the future. But it just my guess that since this year is going to be extraordinarily large, it’ll end up maybe being the absolute peak.”
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