Peak TV Is Over: FX Boss Says Number of Scripted Shows Dropped 14% in Strike-Impacted 2023

John Landgraf’s prediction that peak TV would decline has finally been proven correct

John Landgraf
Chairman of FX Network and FX Productions John Landgraf speaks during the FX segment of the 2020 Winter TCA Tour (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

The total number of adult scripted original series in 2023 dropped by 14% to 516 shows during a year impacted by the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, according to FX’s calculations. This is compared to the 600 series that debuted in 2022, marking the first major decline in the era of peak TV.

FX Networks and FX Productions chairman John Landgraf presented the numbers during the Television Critics Association’s 2024 winter tour. While there was a 7% decline adult scripted content in 2020 due to production delays tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, Landgraf emphasized that he believes this drop is different than the previous one.

“The dual strikes undoubtedly played a role in the industry shift,” Landgraf said. The FX head went on to note that “even before the strike shuttered all production,” the realignment of the entertainment industry as streaming continues to rise has led “to the cancellation of numerous projects and series.”

“Our latest research estimates show that there was a 31% decrease in original scripted series in 2024 year to date compared to the same five-week period,” Landgraf said. “While I understand it is a very small sample time and some of the decline may still be related to delays in production strikes, I do believe these numbers are directionally accurate.”

Despite declaring that peak TV is officially over, Landgraf admitted he does not “have a good sense of where this will level out.”

Another reason for this decline in scripted may have to do with the rising cost of television, he added.

“There’s been a spiraling and escalating costs,” Landgraf said. “We’ve had so many shows — for example ‘The Shield,’ ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ — that started with modest budgets that even if they weren’t inspired out the gate we could afford to do this and believe in them creatively. It’s hard to do with something super expensive.”

Another remains the diminishing attention spans of audiences. Though Landgraf noted that streaming trends indicate that long-running shows such as “The Office” and “Friends” remain the most watched by the average consumer, creating that kind of content in the current landscape remains a challenge.

“There’s a reason why ‘Suits’ goes on a streaming platform and gets billions of hours of consumption is because that’s the kind of television people really love,” Landgraf said.

Though the executive is unsure about the future of television, Landgraf maintained that “one of my greatest priorities” remains trying to make the best programming possible.

“I want to figure out how to make the next deep-library show, and I think that is to the advantage of Hulu and Disney,” Landgraf said.

The presentation came on the heels of a very good awards season for the cable network. At the 75th Annual Emmy Awards, FX won six of the highest honors of the evening, tying it with Netflix and putting it behind HBO and Max’s nine wins. “The Bear” and “Welcome to Wrexham” both took home several awards overall with 10 and five, respectively.

Though the ceremony took place in 2024, the awards show honored series that released a majority of episodes between June 1, 2022, until May 31, 2023. The awards show was supposed to take place in 2023 but was delayed due to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes last year.

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