If you feel like there’s an overwhelming number of TV series options, there’s a very good reason for that.
FX has calculated that in 2015 networks and streaming services had a record 409 dramas, comedies and limited series — and that’s not even including unscripted shows or TV movies. Digging into the data, the number of scripted series this year was up 9 percent over 2014, and has doubled since 2009 — while network ratings have, on average, declined.
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“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,” said Julie Piepenkotter, executive vice president of research for FX Networks. “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.”
If you assume each show is 13 hours (which is really conservative given that many hour-long broadcast dramas have 22-episode seasons), that would mean there were 5,317 hours of potential scripted TV to watch this year.
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Earlier this year, FX chief John Landgraf made headlines when he declared at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour that there was “there is simply too much television,” and added: “There is too much competition … It is hard to find good shows … and I believe it’s impossible to maintain quality control.”
The executive predicted 2015 would hit “peak TV” with 400 shows (which turned out to be correct) and might probably rise again in 2016 — but then the “content bubble” would likely burst and a decline would begin (we shall see).
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The problem is that as the number of shows increase, the typical audience size for each show declines. This is also an issue because audience expectations continue to rise too, as lavishly produced shows like HBO’s Game of Thrones raise the bar for the industry. At a certain point, it will theoretically be impossible for networks to keep making higher and higher quality shows for an audience that’s increasingly divided.
Netflix chief Ted Sarandos later countered “there is no such thing” as too much TV, “unless we’re all spending more and not watching more. That’s not the case.”