Peak TV Update: Scripted Originals Dip 7% in 2020, FX Says

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The total volume of scripted originals TV series has declined for the first time in a decade.

According to data supplied annually by Disney-owned FX, the total number of scripted original series on broadcast, cable and streaming outlets totaled 493 in 2020. That's down 7 percent from 2019's record-high of 532.

The decline is likely driven by the novel coronavirus pandemic, which halted production across the globe for a big chunk of 2020. The financial strain brought on by the pandemic also prompted a handful of scripted series to be "un-renewed" after factoring in things like filming logistics, rising costs of production and talent schedules.

The downturn marks the first time in the decade since FX began counting scripted programming. FX, under CEO John Landgraf, stopped breaking out originals by platform as the line between streamers, cable and broadcast outlets continues to blur.

Given the industry's prioritization on streaming — conglomerates ranging from Disney to NBCU and ViacomCBS have restructured to focus on their respective platforms — it's unclear if the total number of originals will continue on a downward trajectory.

Streaming services from WarnerMedia (HBO Max) and NBCUniversal (Peacock) launched in 2020, joining an increasingly crowded market that includes subscription platforms Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Hulu, Disney+ and CBS All Access. (The latter is being rebranded as Paramount+ in March.) Each of the platforms continues to aggressively buy and develop scripted originals as the race for streaming dollars becomes Priority No. 1 for the media titans.

What remains unclear is how each platform that is part of a larger ecosystem that includes linear networks will integrate originals. NBCUniversal, for example, has already revealed plans for a cross-platform launch for its Joe Exotic drama starring Kate McKinnon. HBO Max, meanwhile, is the next-day home for all HBO programming as those two platforms continue to adopt a more cohesive strategy.

Here's a look at total volume for the past decade:
2009: 210
2010: 216
2011: 266
2012: 288
2013: 349
2014: 389
2015: 420
2016: 454
2017: 487
2018: 495
2019: 532

Source: FX research