FX Chief: Scripted Originals Could Top 530 in 2019

Scripted originals hit a record 495 as digital overtakes broadcast and cable TV — and that's before Apple and Disney launch rivals in 2019.
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
John Landgraf

"It's a time when the strongest brands will survive." That's how FX CEO John Landgraf describes the state of Peak TV.

English-language scripted originals in 2018 grew to another record (495, up eight from 2017). While 2018 was the year of lowest growth in scripted in almost a decade (1.6 percent, down from its 7 percent average gain), Landgraf had predicted originals would surge to 520 for 2018. What he didn't anticipate, however, was basic cable's massive retreat from the pricey genre, he tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Viacom networks TV Land and CMT joined NBCUniversal's E! in pulling out of the scripted game, contributing to a massive reduction in basic cable originals (down 31 from 2017). That marked basic cable's biggest year-over-year decline since FX began its survey on the state of scripted in 2011. The losses helped pave the way for streaming services (32 percent) and broadcast (30 percent) to top basic cable (29 percent) for the first time in total scripted market share.

While overall volume appears to have slowed, basic cable's decline offset the massive gains in the streaming space (up 43 year-over-year for a high of 160 originals). "What I didn't foresee was the level of aggressiveness and pace of ramp-up the streaming businesses would pursue, particularly Netflix, which is a little cuckoo when it comes to the sheer volume," Landgraf says.

For 2019, Landgraf expects the streaming surge to continue as Netflix (up to $13 billion spent in 2018) shows no signs of slowing and Apple, Disney+ and WarnerMedia roll out their rival direct-to-consumer services. (Apple has already ordered 19 series and will launch in summer 2019, while Disney+ will bow with Star Wars and Marvel series in the fourth quarter. WarnerMedia has not said what originals will debut on its service.)

Overall, Landgraf is sticking with his prediction of a 7 percent gain rate for 2019 (to an estimated 530) as AT&T's flush-with-cash HBO and Disney-owned FX up their investment. He adds: "My guess is there's more fuel left in the tank from here and we'll see more growth across the entire spectrum."

This story first appeared in the Dec. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.