There’s No Stopping Peak TV, as 487 Scripted Series Aired in 2017

The number of streaming shows has increase 680% since 2012

The number of broadcast, cable and streaming scripted series has increased 69% during the past five years. Getty Images
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In 2015, FX Networks CEO John Landgraf coined the phrase “Peak TV” to describe the overwhelming amount of TV available on broadcast, cable and streaming platforms. That year, a then-record 422 scripted series aired on those outlets.

But Peak TV still isn’t close to peaking, according to new estimates from FX’s research team that Landgraf unveiled today at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour: in 2017, a whopping 487 scripted series aired on broadcast, cable and streaming outlets.

That’s 32 more shows— a 7 percent increase —than the 455 scripted series that aired in 2016. Those numbers don’t include the 750-some unscripted series that also air each year.


In 2010, just 216 scripted series aired, which is less than half of 2017’s output.

The biggest explosion in that time frame has been streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, which were responsible for just four series in 2010, and produced 117 shows in 2017. The number of scripted streaming series increased 30 percent over 2016.

In the past five years, between 2012 and 2017, the streaming scripted series output has increased 680 percent. Basic cable shows have jumped 40 percent, pay cable is up 45 percent and broadcast has increased 29 percent. Overall, the number of scripted shows is up 69 percent in that time frame.

The 2017 breakdown was as follows: 153 broadcast series, 175 basic cable shows, 42 pay cable shows and 117 streaming series. Landgraf said those numbers are records for all outlets except for basic cable, which declined 4 percent from 2016.

Over the past two years, there has been a slight softening of basic cable scripted series, which fell from 183 in 2016 to 175 in 2017, as A&E led an against-the-grain retreat from scripted TV.

For comparison’s sake, when FX launched The Shield in 2002, there were just 182 scripted shows that year in all: 135 on broadcast, 30 on basic cable and 17 on premium cable.

Last year’s 487 number fell slightly short of Landgraf’s previous predictions that the number of scripted series would top the 500 mark in 2017. In 2016, he said that the television business is “probably unsustainable” for more than 500 scripted series.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.