Feb 12, 2024 - Business

"Peak TV" reaches its end as scripted shows fall for first time since 2020

Estimated number of U.S. scripted original series per year, 2010-2023
Reproduced from an FX Networks Research report; Chart: Axios Visuals

The number of new scripted series fell last year for the first time in more than a decade — barring 2020 — according to new data from FX Networks Research.

Why it matters: Pressure for profits is forcing entertainment giants to pull back on scripted content spend after years of over-investing in new streaming hits.

Details: The 14% year-over-year decline in the number of new scripted series across live television networks and streaming represented the steepest drop-off in at least a decade, per FX Research.

  • There were 600 series counted in 2022, marking an industry record.
  • Streaming is without question responsible for the huge uptick in original new scripted shows over the past decade. There were just four scripted series from online services in 2010.

The big picture: Last year's drop represents the end of an era that FX Networks Chairman John Landgraf has for years dubbed "Peak TV."

  • The "Peak TV" era represents a time when Hollywood studios were overspending on new content amid an arms race for more streaming subscribers.
  • Now that most major streaming services have reached a level of maturity, levels of investment in new scripted series are expected to slow.
  • Investments in live sports rights, however, continue to grow, as sports have proven very effective in attracting new subscribers.

Be smart: Studios cut back on programming spending beginning in 2022, but last year's dual writers and actors strikes gave them cover to further rein in spending that had ballooned during the onset of the streaming wars, Axios' Tim Baysinger notes.

What to watch: The number of new, original scripted series is expected to further decline in 2024, as most major entertainment giants push to make their streaming bets profitable for the first time this year.

  • Paramount, Warner Bros. Discovery, Disney and Comcast don't expect their streaming offerings to break even until 2024 or 2025 at least.
  • Disney said last week that it still expects to reach that milestone by the end of its 2024 fiscal year.

Go deeper: Hollywood faces painful next episode

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