Peak TV Update: Scripted Originals Hit Yet Another High in 2018

Narcos Still Mexico - Publicity - H 2018
Carlos Somonte/Netflix

There is no end in sight for the so-called "Peak TV" surge in scripted originals, according to research provided by FX Networks.

FX on Thursday released its annual study on the state of scripted television, revealing that the number of originals (think Game of Thrones, Narcos and Pose) hit another record of 495 in 2018. That's up only eight from the then-record 487 scripted originals in 2017 and down compared with the more than 520 originals FX CEO John Landgraf predicted for 2018 back in January.

As expected, online services like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and new arrival Apple led the charge, representing 32 percent of all originals (up from 25 percent last year) and topping both basic cable and broadcast for the first time since FX began tracking growth in 2014. Scripted originals grew a whopping 385 percent among streamers compared with 2014. Broadcast is down 1 percent vs. 2014, premium cable up 32 percent over the same span, while basic cable dipped 17 percent. Overall, total volume was up 27 percent vs. 2014. 

All told, streamers represented 32 percent of the total number of scripted originals, with broadcast coming in at 30 percent, followed by basic cable (29 percent) and premium cable (9 percent). Streaming content grew from 117 originals in 2017 to another record of 160 in 2018. Broadcast originals dropped from a record 153 last year to 146 in 2018. Premium cable continued its slow growth, rising from 42 originals last year to 45 in 2018. Basic cable, which this year saw a few outlets retreat from the scripted space, dropped from 175 originals in 2017 to 144 in 2018.

Cable networks to exit the scripted space in 2018 included Viacom's TV Land and CMT and NBCUniversal's E! They joined A&E, VH1 and WGN America. Meanwhile, YouTube has pumped its proverbial brakes on new scripted and will instead take down its paywall and offer new series like Karate Kid sequel Cobra Kai free to subscribers weekly while paid users can binge the season all at once.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. launched DC Universe with a slate of comic book-themed scripted originals from mega-producer Greg Berlanti as Apple and Disney+ are expected to roll out their respective Netflix rival platforms with a roster of high-profile (and big-budget) scripted originals in 2019. Apple has already spent aggressively on originals from top producers (J.J. Abrams, Damien Chazelle) with A-list stars (Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon). Disney+ will launch with a new live-action Star Wars series and offerings from Marvel, including a TV spinoff starring Tom Hiddleston. HBO, under new corporate parent AT&T, is also expected to ramp up scripted originals to better compete with Netflix and its $8 billion-plus content spend.

FX releases its research on the state of scripted originals every year after Landgraf coined the term "Peak TV" while presenting to TV reporters a few years ago. Check out the charts, below.