With 455 Scripted Series Released This Year, ‘Peak TV’ Has Yet to Actually Peak

Streaming output doubles in just one year

The phrase "peak TV" was coined by FX Networks CEO John Landgraf last year to describe the "overwhelming" increase in scripted series, but it seems as if the glut of scripted television shows still hasn't peaked yet.

An estimated 455 scripted series aired this year on broadcast, cable and streaming services, according to FX Networks Research.

"This estimate reps an 8 percent increase over just last year (421 in 2015)―but an astonishing 71 percent increase over five years ago (266 in 2011) and 137 percent over a decade ago (192 in 2006)," said Julie Piepenkotter, evp, research, FX Networks, in a statement.

While the number of broadcast, premium cable and basic cables shows all fell in 2016, that decline was more than surpassed by the output from streaming services. That number doubled in one year, from 46 shows last year to 93 shows in 2016.

Expect that trend to continue in 2017, as Netflix plans to double its output once again.

In August, Landgraf estimated that 2016's scripted series output would probably top out at 450, while 2017 could see an astounding 500 scripted shows. That's in addition to the 750-some unscripted shows that also air.

The television business is "probably unsustainable" for more than 500 scripted series, Landgraf said at the time.

Landgraf, who last month was named Adweek's Television Executive of the Year, told Adweek that the number of scripted series will finally start to drop off by 2019. But despite the deluge of scripted shows, his greatest challenge is the same as when he took charge of FX in 2005.

"For FX to be relevant to people as a brand—for there to be a reason for people to continue to pay attention to what we do and to seek us out—we have to give them an experience they just can't get somewhere else," he said. "You have to continually replenish your brand equity."

And that requires big swings like The People v. O.J. Simpson and Atlanta, both of which became commercial and critical hits this year. "You can't just be different," Landgraf said. "You have to be different and good."