Bob Greenblatt doesn’t like the term “Peak TV” — partly because it now looks like we’re nowhere near the height. “Peak means that you’re hitting a top,” he told the audience Tuesday at the Banff World Media Festival. “I’m not sure ‘Peak TV’ is the right word.”
Greenblatt noted that FX Networks CEO John Landgraf popularized the term a few years ago when the number of scripted shows on TV had blossomed into the hundreds. Landgraf’s contention was that at some point, the TV business couldn’t sustain the economics of that many shows.
But of course, the number keeps rising and has reached 500 shows, particularly thanks to the amount of series coming out of Netflix. (According to FX Research’s annual tally of all scripted primetime series on broadcast, cable, and streaming, there were 487 shows in 2017 — up from 216 in 2010.) “[Peak TV] implies that you’ll peak and level off,” Greenblatt noted. “But it seems to be growing and growing.”
Asked about the major dollar deals that Netflix made to lock up creatives like Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes, Greenblatt admitted that the competition has changed dramatically.
“The business is completely different now than it was even two years ago,” he said. “We all know Netflix is out there to own the universe. They’re going to make these deals.”
Greenblatt also noted that Greg Berlanti’s recent $400 million pact at Warner Bros. TV made sense for the studio given the fact that he has 14 series now on the air.
“That’s unheard of,” he said. “If I’m Warner Bros. TV and I want to keep him in the company, you have to make a deal at that scale. We have big deals with some incredible writers, none of that scale yet, but for the right people we would have to be in that game. I know that our business will depend on having some of those deals.”
The challenge of competing with Netflix and other digital companies has led the traditional media companies to bulk up. Greenblatt didn’t directly address NBCUniversal parent Comcast’s bid for 21st Century Fox’s production assets, but he noted, “It’s really important to have enormous scale, international reach, global reach.”
“I’m thrilled I’m part of one of the companies that’s going to be without a doubt one of the three or four biggest media companies in the world,” he said. “These companies used to be the ultimate, the biggest media companies. Now there are digital companies even bigger than our company.”
Greenblatt predicted that in the next five years, the traditional media companies would be down to three or four behemoths. That will include Comcast, he said, which “will subsume some of the smaller companies in some shape or form. I don’t know what the new order really means yet. [But] the volume this company puts out is extraordinary. We want to increase that. I didn’t think I would have predicted the appetite for television would be this insatiable.”