The trend in premium networks and cable television ordering more and more scripted TV series came to an end in 2016, while streaming services doubled their offerings.
FX’s research team released their annual numbers on the state of television, and one aspect of the report stands out above the rest: Netflix and other streaming services are prepared to spend to dominate. This year still saw a record number of original, scripted programming — 455 series in all — but streaming services provided most of the growth. New series declined on cable and premium channels.
The team released an informational chart (below), which clearly shows the huge increase streaming saw in just one year. In 2015, 46 new original series were ordered for a total of 421 scripted series on broadcast, cable, premium and streaming TV services. 2016 added another 93 series, for a record 455 series available to watch.. While the number is high, it shouldn’t be too surprising considering how much companies like Amazon and Netflix have admitted they’re willing to dole out to be able to compete.
Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief of content, has said the company will invest $6 billion in original programming, with the goal of making half of its catalog original and exclusive shows. Amazon has also spent quite a bit of money on its own original series. Most notably, the company offered $250 million to Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, best known for hosting the BBC’s Top Gear, to bring The Grand Tour to Amazon Prime.
FX’s data confirms the findings of other studies. According to a report released in July, more than 25 percent of American homes don’t subscribe to a pay-TV service. As cable companies look to “over-the-top” streaming services — like AT&T with DirecTV Now or Time Warner investing heavily in Hulu — there’s even less of a reason for people to buy packaged deals from a cable provider.
In March, Time Warner confirmed that HBO Now, the stand-alone streaming service for the network, was nearing one million subscribers and growing. Networks like CBS are investing in streaming-exclusive TV series, like Star Trek: Discovery and a spinoff of The Good Wife spinoff, while Showtime and Fox look into their own stand-alone streaming options.
Between 2010 and 2016, the number of streaming consumers jumped 1,450 percent, compared to a 25 percent rise in traditional broadcast viewership. Premium cable saw a slight increase of 9 percent; basic cable jumped 63 percent. While it’s a sign that traditional cable venues are fine for now, the trends suggest consumers want to watch their television online.
At a news conference this summer, FX president John Landgraf said “while there is more great television [now] than at any time in history, audiences are having more trouble than ever distinguishing the great from the merely competent.” With more than 500 scripted series set to air next year, Landgraf said the television landscape is becoming too crowded.
Landgraf said that like any market, there will be a contraction period, and as long as that moment happens, the future of TV is bright.
“As long as, once that contraction occurs, there are still shows being made, there are still diversity in the voices making them, and there's still a free market where people can sell their ideas, then that's nothing but a positive.”