technology

There Are More New TV Shows Than Ever in America

Updated on
  • Online services accounted for most of growth in scripted shows
  • Yearly study by FX CEO Landgraf highlights widening turf war

The number of scripted TV shows released in the U.S. swelled to a new high in 2017, reflecting the growing efforts of Netflix, Amazon and YouTube to steal viewers and advertisers from traditional networks.

Streaming services accounted for 117 of the 487 shows released last year and almost all of the growth from the 455 programs released in 2016, according to a study by FX Networks, a division of 21st Century Fox Inc. The number of shows released in the U.S. has more than doubled in seven years.

So Much TV, So Little Time

Production of scripted shows has soared with the entry of online competitors like Netflix

Source: FX Networks

Silicon Valley giants and Hollywood’s biggest studios are locked in a struggle for control of the entertainment industry, with newer online players steadily gaining ground. Technology companies are investing in shows to attract customers to video services delivered over the internet, while the established media are spending more to keep viewers from abandoning their networks.

Netflix Inc. has become the largest supplier of new shows, increasing output from just a few programs in 2013 to dozens in 2017 in a bid to sign up more customers. The strategy has worked, with the streaming service growing to more than 109 million subscribers and its market value touching $90 billion.

Critics placed more Netflix shows on their year-end ‘‘best of’’ lists than any other network, surpassing HBO, according to a tally from FX. The service also has several movies and shows, including “The Crown,” competing at this weekend’s Golden Globe Awards.

Competing Agendas

While Netflix has attacked the business head on, attempting to build the dominant entertainment service on the internet, other technology giants have invested in video as part of broader agendas. Amazon.com Inc. releases dozens of TV shows and movies to build loyalty among its online shoppers, and Apple Inc. is funding TV to help sell mobile phones.

John Landgraf, FX Networks’ chief executive officer, has tracked production in recent years to call attention to what he says is an unsustainable surge in TV production, which he dubs “peak TV.” Networks are producing more shows than viewers have time to watch, hurting profitability.

The competition has led to consolidation among pay-TV distributors and media companies. Walt Disney Co. agreed last month to acquire much of 21st Century Fox, including FX, for $52.4 billion. AT&T Inc. is trying to buy Time Warner Inc. for $85.4 billion and is fighting in court with the U.S. Justice Department, which opposed the deal.

Joining Disney “will inevitably help our brand to remain competitive and relevant in the future” Landgraf said Friday at a meeting of television critics. As unregulated Internet companies expand, media companies have no choice but to seek scale.

Some TV networks have begun to trim production. The number of scripted shows released by basic cable channels declined for the second year in a row. Those networks had previously been the primary driver of growth.

The success of FX’s “The Shield” and AMC’s “Mad Men” inspired networks like TNT, WGN America and MTV to try their hand. The number of shows released on basic cable rose more than fivefold from 2002 to 2013.

(Updates with FX CEO’s comment three paragraphs from bottom.)
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