Peak TV has finally peaked. At FX’s portion of the Television Critics Assn. press tour on Friday, chairman John Landgraf revealed his research team’s annual tally of adult original scripted series across U.S. broadcast, cable and streaming services. That number dropped to 516 in 2023, down 14% from a record 600 in 2022 — the most significant dip ever since FX started its tally more than two decades ago.
“The dual strikes undoubtedly played a role in this industry shift,” Landgraf acknowledged. But he went on to point out the new business realities of this maturing streaming age, as outlets temper their output.
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“The drawdown of production was likely underway even before the strike shuttered all production,” he continued. “The realignment of industry priorities from streaming scale at any cost to profitability continued after the strikes, leading to the cancellation of numerous projects.”
An end to Peak TV is something that Landgraf had been predicting for some time. 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.
But in 2022, Landgraf called it again, proclaiming during FX’s summer 2022 TCA session 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.”
He was right this time. And at the January 2023 FX TCA session, he was even more bullish on his belief that the number had topped out. “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,” he said last year. “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.”
The 2023 dip was larger than the previous one in 2020, when COVID-19 impacted production and led to a 7% drop (to 493 shows). In 2021, the number shot back up to 559, as new streamers entered the programming fray — leading to that record 600 in 2022.
FX Research has been counting the number of shows on TV since it got into the scripted game with “The Shield” in 2002. It’s been non-stop growth of original scripted series on television since that year (with the exception of that pandemic-era blip). 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 2013, as the streaming revolution just got under way, the FX count was at 343 (157 shows on basic cable, 129 on broadcast, 33 on pay cable and 24 on streamers).
FX no longer breaks down its tally by broadcast, network or streaming. And its list doesn’t include non-English language shows, children’s programs or short-form content. The number also doesn’t include the huge amount of unscripted series on all platforms, a number that is believed to be much bigger than the scripted tally.
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