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Total Number of Scripted Series in 2015 Sets New High with 409. A Bubble?

Total Number of Scripted Series in 2015 Sets New High with 409. A Bubble?

Earlier this year when speaking at the Television Critics Association (TCA) summer press tour, FX Networks and FX Productions CEO John Landgraf spoke about the proliferation of scripted series on television and what he called “peak TV,” predicting that the number of scripted series would surpass the 400 mark, while also speculating that the number of scripted series would reach its apex either this year or in 2016.

It was more of a word of caution on his part, of a potential bubble that will soon burst, as I recall, arguing that there’s just too much TV now, making it more and more difficult for TV viewers to find and stick with new series (even if only because they are overwhelmed with the volume), and thus networks having to yank programming from their respective lineups early, thanks to weak ratings. 

“There is simply too much television,” Landgraf said during his presentation the TCA. Citing FX research, he predicted that the number of original scripted series on the air this year will, as he said, “easily blow through the 400 series mark” and probably rise in 2016 before an inevitable and potentially severe trimming begins. 

The original scripted TV series business “is in the late stages of a bubble,” Landgraf said, adding, “We’re seeing a desperate scrum – everyone is trying to jockey for position. We’re playing a game of musical chairs, and they’re starting to take away chairs.”

And speaking to what he felt are the broader ramifications of this, especially as the “unbundling” of cable TV as we’ve long known it begins, and *newer* players like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and others plant flags, Landgraf said, “It’s going to be a messy, inelegant process.”

And I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds!

In a press release FX sent out today, according to Julie Piepenkotter, Executive Vice President of Research for FX Networks, the combined total of scripted series on broadcast networks, basic and pay cable networks, and OTT services this year, was 409, which is inline with Landgraf’s earlier prediction that it would surpass 400. 

Keep in mind, again, that number represents the number of original scripted series, meaning it does not include reality TV shows, news, sports, made-for-television movies, specials, daytime or children’s programming. 

Piepenkotter said, “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. 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.”

The total number of scripted series in 2015 posted an increase of +9% over 2014 (409 vs. 376). 

Since 2009, the number of scripted series has increased +94%, rising from 211 to 409, with a +174% growth in scripted series on basic cable (181 vs. 66).

Dating back to 2002 when FX launched “The Shield,” basic cable’s first successful hit scripted drama series and also the first ever to win Emmy and Golden Globe awards, the greatest growth in the number of scripted series has come courtesy of basic cable networks with an incredible +484% increase over that span (181 vs. 31).

According to Landgraf, we’ve peaked! The bubble is set to burst in the next year or 2, which I assume will mean much fewer original scripted series.

I must admit that there really are only 2 or 3 scripted TV series that I watch with any regularity. And, quite frankly, if I could just subscribe to the shows that I watch, instead of individual channels or cable TV packages, I’d do that. For example, I watch “Homeland” on Showtime, but nothing else on that network right now. So I subscribed to Showtime’s streaming service (I got rid of my cable TV), just so that I can watch “Homeland” this season. But once the season is over (the finale is this Sunday), I’ll likely cancel my subscription, until the next time Showtime has something that I’d like to watch. The same goes for HBO and “Game of Thrones.” 

But I agree. I think there is too much TV. I often do feel overwhelmed, constantly having to play catch-up because there are so many shows that I just don’t have the time to watch. Some of them I’ve bookmarked – especially those that trusted sources have told me are excellent – so that I can maybe binge-watch them in the future, whenever they get to Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.

TNT just canceled 3 new scripted series, all in a single day, because nobody was watching them. It doesn’t matter whether or not they are *good* shows; if nobody’s watching, advertisers won’t be pleased.

If Landgraf is correct, the next couple of years in TV (and what results from whatever culling happens) will certainly be worth paying attention to.

Thoughts? 

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