Peak TV Update: Scripted Originals Top 500 in 2019, FX Says

The Morning Show - Publicity Still - H 2019
Courtesy of Apple

FX on Thursday used its time at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour to provide its annual update about the state of Peak TV, specifically the number of scripted originals.

FX CEO John Landgraf predicted in December 2018 that total scripted volume in 2019 would top 530 originals. According to data compiled by FX's research team, Landgraf's prediction was accurate. Total volume of U.S. scripted original dramas, comedies and limited series was 532, up 7 percent year-over-year. Landgraf previously told reporters that his team would no longer be issuing the deep-dive charts measuring volume from broadcast, cable and streaming outlets. 

"Given that the streaming wars are now at hand, that total will increase substantially this year, which to me is just bananas," Landgraf told reporters. The exec, the so-called Mayor of Television, noted that measuring volume by distributor is becoming an antiquated mode of division. That's particularly true given that some of FX's original series will not air on the linear network but instead on Hulu under a branded umbrella called "FX on Hulu." 

As for the scripted total, that's yet another record, besting the 495 originals in 2018. 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. That trend continued in 2019, as basic cable networks like Bravo, CMT, VH1, WGN America and E! — as well as TV Land (save for Younger) — exited the scripted business. (This week, AT&T-owned Audience Network announced that it would retreat from scripted and instead become a preview channel for WarnerMedia's streamer, HBO Max.) For some, like NBCUniversal-owned Bravo and E!, scripted series that were earmarked for the linear cable networks have been moved to the company's forthcoming streaming service.

While Landgraf didn't break out any other metrics, streaming likely was the key place of growth given that Netflix, Hulu and Amazon continue to be big buyers as well as the highly anticipated 2019 launches of Disney+ and Apple TV+ platforms.

Streaming originals will likely continue to surge in 2020 with the launches of NBCUniversal's Peacock (likely in April) and WarnerMedia-backed HBO Max (May) as well as shortform platform Quibi. Netflix, meanwhile, continues to spend billions on originals to compete even as it takes a more nuanced approach to renewals as many scripted series find themselves having ended or been canceled before or around the four-season marker.

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.