495 Scripted Shows Aired in 2018 as Streaming’s Output Surpassed Basic Cable and Broadcast

Number of streamed series has almost quadrupled in four years

In 2011, 266 scripted shows aired on broadcast, cable and streaming. Getty Images
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Peak TV has peaked yet again. The number of original scripted TV series this year jumped to 495—just barely missing 500—as the annual output from streaming services surpassed the tallies from broadcast and basic cable for the first time.

According to new data from FX Networks Research, 160 streaming series aired this year, compared to 146 shows on broadcast TV, 144 on basic cable and 45 on pay cable. In 2017, 487 scripted series aired in total on streaming, broadcast and cable networks.

That number doesn’t include the estimated 750-plus unscripted series that also air on those outlets.

Streaming now accounts for 32 percent of all original series, as broadcast slipped to 30 percent and basic cable fell to 29 percent.

Over the past four years, the number of scripted series from streaming services has increased an astounding 385 percent, while basic cable’s output fell 17 percent in the same timeframe. Pay cable was up 32 percent, and broadcast was down 1 percent.

The basic cable decline, as Adweek noted in October, came after more than a dozen networks that had dabbled in scripted—including A&E, Bravo, CMT, Discovery, E!, ID, MTV, TV Land, VH1 and WGN America—decided within the past year to either pull out of the space entirely, or significantly curtail their efforts there.

Many of them were unable to compete with the increased streaming output from outlets like Netflix, which spent $8 billion on original programming this year.

“Too many people got into the space, and it got too hard to create a hit,” said Peter Olsen, evp of ad sales, A+E Networks, where A&E was one of the first to throw in the towel on scripted, in April 2017. “It’s very hard to play in that space part time. The economics are difficult.”

FX Networks CEO John Landgraf  initially predicted that Peak TV—a term which he coined in 2015 to describe the overwhelming amount of TV available on broadcast, cable and streaming platforms—would have peaked by 2015 or 2016, but that was “wrong,” he said in August: “It’s a ways away.”

Landgraf said in 2015 that there was “simply too much television,” but in August, he said his thinking had evolved, and that he now believed there was “too much narrative” on TV, which is overwhelming for viewers. Now, “everything feels vaguely familiar to them. That’s something we struggle with,” he said.

@jasonlynch jason.lynch@adweek.com Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.