Another Record Year For (Number Of) TV Shows

By December 22, 2016
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Are you sitting down in front of your television right now wondering, “Damn, there is just too much to watch”?

Don’t worry – it’s not that you’re getting old. Well, you are getting old, but that’s not why you feel overwhelmed by the number of shows on television. It’s because there really is too much to watch – so much that for the fifth year in a row, we’ve set a record.

So how many original scripted television shows are available to you right now? According to a study conducted by cable channel FX (and shared by The Hollywood Reporter), if this were 2002, you would have 182 different television shows – including the premiere of The Shield to choose from.

In 2016? It’s not 182. It’s not 282. Heck, it’s not even 382.

It’s 455.

If that seems like a lot, just last year, there were 421 original shows, and there are signs that it could soon hit a peak.

John Landgraf, the president of FX, isn’t quite sure when that peak will be, however, although he’s expecting it to come next year – that’s when the number of scripted originals will climb to a whopping 500 shows.

That’s right. You could watch a season or series premiere of an episode every day of the year right now, and still have at least 140 shows left over.

So what’s causing the explosion? Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, according to the study. In 2010, the streaming services had just four shows between them. Today? It’s 93.

While 500 shows in 2017 might seem like a mountain too tall to climb, Landgraf thought 2016 would be “Peak TV,” and acknowledges he got that wrong. And thinks it’s possible that even more shows could hit the air in 2018.

Why does that matter? It’s a crowded marketplace. In the 1970s, there were only three networks fighting for your attention. In the 1980s, cable and first-run syndication fought for your attention.

But today, there are so many shows coming out, that not only is it easy to get lost in the shuffle – how can anyone devote enough time to watch even a large fraction of the total number of shows available?

Yet, it’s good news for Hollywood, because a lot of people in the industry are employed – a lot. And many writers who may have never had a project see the light of day just five years ago now have a chance to at least earn some credits, if not possibly put out the next big sleeper hit.

There is a downside, however, and it’s the reason why Landgraf keeps bringing it up – this is a bubble, and there are only two things bubbles know how to do: slowly deflate, or burst. While one is better than the other, neither is good news for the industry in the near future.

So enjoy all the scripted shows you’re seeing right now, hope that quality doesn’t suffer, and please, don’t expect it to last forever.

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Michael Hinman

Michael Hinman

Managing Editor at GeekNation
Michael began what has become nearly 19 years of entertainment reporting as the founder of SyFy Portal, which would become Airlock Alpha after he sold the SyFy brand to NBC Universal. He's based out of New York City where he is the editor of a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper in the Bronx.