FX Chief: Scripted Originals Set to Top 520 in 2018

"Virtually all the growth is and will be coming out of streaming services," John Landgraf says.
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FX chief John Landgraf

The Peak TV bubble isn't bursting quite yet.

According to a new FX study, the total number of English-language scripted originals released in 2017 hit a new high, growing 7 percent to 487 (up from 455 in 2016). As has been the case in the past four years, subscription-video-on-demand platforms like deep-pocketed Netflix and Amazon led the charge, growing from 90 in 2016 to 117 last year. That's more than double the 49 total series on the streaming services in 2015.

"Without a crystal ball, I think it's highly likely we top 500 [in 2018] because the increases in the last three years have been 9 percent, 8 percent and 7 percent, year-over-year," FX CEO John Landgraf, who coined the term "Peak TV," tells The Hollywood Reporter. "With 487, you only have to increase 2.7 percent off this year's total to hit 500. It seems like it's more likely that you're going to get to 520."

To his point, Netflix is expected to spend another $8 billion on scripted originals in 2018, while Amazon — which is paying $250 million for global rights for a Lord of the Rings TV series — is forecast to spend more than $4.5 billion. Hulu, the first streamer to win a best drama Emmy (for The Handmaid's Tale), will spend $2.5 billion on originals this year.

"Virtually all the growth is and will be coming out of streaming services," Landgraf says. "Everybody is going to try to maintain their investment posture as much as they can, but the traditional channels and brands are being held to a different standard of accountability than the streamers in terms of the cost of and return on capital."

And then there's Apple, entering the scripted space with a $1 billion budget. For its first series, a morning-show drama, it's said to be paying $1 million an episode to stars Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. The tech giant's slate also includes an Amazing Stories reboot and a space drama from Battlestar Galactica's Ron Moore.

Meanwhile, Landgraf believes broadcast and basic and premium cable are either at or near their peak. For the second year in a row, basic cable saw fewer new series (from 183 to 175 in 2017) as outlets like WGN America and A&E exited the scripted space. Broadcast and premium content have grown modestly over the past four years, with the former clocking in at 153 originals in 2017, up from 146, and the latter 42, up from 36.

And for every platform that leaves the scripted business, a new one — like Facebook — enters it as Landgraf says the total number of brands producing originals continues to hover around 77. 

A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.