In January, FX Networks released a chart noting that the number of scripted series on TV had nearly doubled since 2009. There were 211 such shows that year and 409 in 2015.

It seemed the very definition of the phrase “Peak TV,” which FX CEO John Landgraf had coined earlier in 2015. But new data suggests we haven’t quite hit the apex yet:



For starters, FX’s research team has revised its 2015 total up a little to 419 scripted shows (a total that doesn’t include foreign-language series or kids’ shows, by the way, to say nothing of unscripted series or documentaries).

The pace has only quickened in 2016: Through the end of July, 322 series have aired in 2016, up from 304 at the same time last year. That projects to somewhere between 430 and 450 shows for the full year.

Unsurprisingly, the growth is coming mostly from streaming services, with Netflix and its massive programming budget at the forefront. And based on what various outlets have announced so far, the curve will likely continue upward for at least another year.

“If we assume that the broadcast networks continue to produce about 150 original series [per calendar year], the premium cable networks, based on their announced intentions, will increase their count to around 50 series, and the basic cable networks will continue to produce around 180 scripted shows,” Landgraf said Tuesday at the summer TV press tour. “Then we layer on the idea that the streaming services will ramp up to 130-plus [shows] — that indicates we will approach or slightly exceed 500 scripted series for all of 2017.”

What’s it mean, other than there’s even more for viewers to sort through? Landgraf said a year ago that he expected the peak to hit this year. He now admits his timing was off, but he does think there will eventually be some kind of contraction as providers can’t sustain the ever-higher output of shows and still make money.

“I will stick stick by my prediction that we are going to hit a peak in the scripted series business within the next two and a half years, and then see a decline by [2019] at the latest,” Landgraf says. “I’m not saying that I believe we are in a bubble which is going to pop, causing us to go from 500-plus scripted series to half that number.  Rather, I think we are ballooning into a condition of oversupply which will at some point slowly deflate, perhaps from 500-plus shows to 400 or a little less than that.”

Posted by:Rick Porter

Rick Porter has been covering TV since the days when networks sent screeners on VHS, one of which was a teaser for the first season of "American Idol." He's left-handed, makes a very solid grilled cheese and has been editor of TV by the Numbers since October 2015. He lives in Austin.

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