‘Peak TV’ Gets Peakier: Scripted Series Growth on Streaming Offsets Broadcast, Cable Declines

Record 495 scripted series have aired this year, FX reports, up from 487 in 2017


The amount of scripted shows on TV continues to grow, reaching almost 500 (495 to be exact) in total in 2018, according to FX Networks Research’s annual 2018 Scripted Original Series count.

That is up from the 487 that aired in 2017. The increase in streaming (up 37 percent compared to 2017) and pay cable (up 7 percent) offset a decline in the amount of scripted series that aired on broadcast (down 5 percent) and basic cable television (down 18 percent).

For pie chart enthusiasts, that means that online services made up 32 percent of all scripted shows in 2018, narrowly edging out broadcast TV, which accounted for 30 percent. Basic cable made up 29 percent and pay cable took up 9 percent. This was the first year that the amount of scripted fare on streaming was higher than any other platform.

Since 2014, the amount of scripted shows to air on streaming services has exploded by 385 percent. And that number only figures to grow bigger in 2019, with WarnerMedia, Apple and Disney all launching their own direct-to-consumer offerings.

During his executive session at the Summer TCA press tour in August, FX Networks CEO John Landgraf rebranded the current “Golden Age” of TV to “The Gilded Age.” At that time, Landgraf noted that there were some 319 scripted shows on TV, which paced 5 percent ahead compared to the same time as last year. It ended up being 1.6 percent compared to 2017.

For the non-history buffs: “The Gilded Age” refers to a period of time between the 1870s and 1900, during the economic boom following the Civil War. However, the use of the term “Gilded Age” was also a pejorative to describe the time as one of materialistic excess and extreme poverty. It was initially coined by Mark Twain in his 1873 novel, “The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today.”