Let’s just cut to the chase. Yes, there’s too much television. Not only is there too much television, but there’s been too much television for quite some time. Not only has there been too much television for quite some time, but there is more television on the way, whether you like it or not.
But here’s the thing: Outside of Los Angeles and New York, very few people care. As passionate as I feel about HBO’s “Succession” and as much as it seems like the entire world is obsessed with it, the show’s spectacular Season 2 finale had just 1.1 million viewers between first run showings, encores, and digital platforms. Or, approximately, the whole of the entertainment industry. That’s it.
There’s a disconnect between those inside the TV industry and the rest of the world. Look at Netflix’s earnings report this week: The company is still reeling after upping its price to $12.99-a-month earlier this year. Analysts once anticipated people subscribing to “three or four” streaming services; that now seems horribly naive.
While it feels like Disney and Apple joining the streaming lineup are game-changers — or backbreakers, depending on how much TV you need to watch professionally — the reality is that your Kroger cashier doesn’t care, because her cable got too expensive and now she exclusively watches Netflix and that’s it for the forseeable future.
The TV industry needs to get out of this gated community. It’s been more than four years since Chairman of FX Network and FX Productions John Landgraf bemoaned this very concept. In 2015, the executive coined the now infamous phrase “Peak TV” and predicted that the market would see its peak that year or the next. Months later, an FX study revealed that television had boasted a record 409 scripted series.
Last year? There were 495. Honestly, maybe that’s enough television for now.
As a medium, TV has always thrived as a collective experience. People mourn the death of water cooler television, in part because it gave people a common ground to meet on, where you could discuss something you felt passionate about without coming to blows over it. Nowadays it feels like nothing fills that void.
When, and if, the general public cottons on to the new players in the streaming space, then yes, some difficult choices will have to be made in each household. Or, some crafty sharing of log-ins will have to be exchanged. (Something Disney is already on the warpath over.)
But ultimately, John Landgraf was right. There’s too much TV. The problem is, TV wonks are the only ones that realize it. The rest of the world will probably be fine settling with what they already have.