BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. — How much TV is too much TV?
You don’t need a ticket to the summer TV press tour in California — where there’s a lot of TV on display — to come up with a reasonable answer. Look to your own life, schedule and (above all) tolerance for an endless stream of comedies and dramas that — producers and networks promise — are all absolutely essential viewing.
But there are only so many hours in a day (24) and — according to FX President John Landgraf — about to be 500 series (give or take) soon filling them.
In recent years, Landgraf, who spoke to the press here Tuesday, has become something of a self-styled Cassandra on the so-called “peak TV” phenomenon, the seemingly unstoppable growth of shows. He’s predicted that there will eventually be a shakeout — or a slow, gradual decline from the “peak” — simply due to the brute human ability to absorb only so many shows in any given lifetime, while also retaining one’s sanity, no matter how tube-addicted a human might actually be.
Landgraf released new figures here, revising upward his estimate of how many scripted series were on the air last year, from an estimated 412 to a total of 417.
But he was just beginning: So far this year through July, the total number of scripted series “stands at 322, up 6 percent from last year. . . . The six broadcasters are only up one show year to date, from 117 to 118. The premium cable services are also only up one show, from 24 to 25, and basic cable networks in the aggregate are actually down year to date, from 139 to 130 shows.
“So what’s driving the increase is the online programming services whose total through July has more than doubled, from 24 to 49 shows.”
He said this increase was effectively just the beginning, and that it’s “being driven by the streaming services, and much more than any other service, by Netflix, which has at this point premiered and/or announced 71 original adult scripted series. For reference, that’s more than the announced future output of HBO, Showtime, Starz and FX combined.”
He said, “The three largest streaming brands combined — Netflix, Hulu and Amazon — have at this point announced 113 scripted original series. Add other online services like Crackle, Seeso and Vimeo to the equation and [they] should reach the combined output of more than 130 scripted series, approaching English language broadcast television’s recent full year total of around 150 original scripted series.”
Just to let that sink in: Landgraf said the major streaming services will have nearly as many original scripted series by this year or next as the major broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW — combined.
By the end of this year, there will be in total around 450 scripted original shows across all networks and services, he predicted. But he said, “We’ll approach or slightly exceed 500 scripted series for all of 2017.”
How much TV is too much TV? Does “500 original scripted series” sound like a good answer?