Record 487 original shows in 2017

Popular new shows this past year included HBO's Big Little Lies, which stars (from far left) Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley and Reese Witherspoon.
Popular new shows this past year included HBO's Big Little Lies, which stars (from left) Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley and Reese Witherspoon.PHOTO: HBO

LOS ANGELES • With streaming services testing the waters for viewers, the number of television shows has turned into a flood.

At least 487 original scripted programmes aired last year, a record for the TV industry, according to data released by cable network FX.

The number was more than the 455 shows in 2016 and far more than the 182 from 15 years ago.

The growth largely comes from the seemingly endless budgets that help produce new shows for streaming services. Netflix has said it will spend US$8 billion (S$10.6 billion) this year.

In 2013, the year that Netflix's House Of Cards premiered, online services distributed only 24 original programmes. Last year, that number skyrocketed to 117.

Others are responsible too. In the past five years, premium cable has seen a 45 per cent growth in the number of original shows, and basic cable networks a 40 per cent rise. Content from the broadcast networks has jumped by 29 per cent.

This does not even include the large number of non-scripted reality or documentary series.

Popular new shows this past year included Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale, ABC's The Good Doctor and HBO's Big Little Lies.

Even lesser-known shows are plugging along. Fuller House, a Netflix revival of the old ABC family sitcom, released its third season, to little fanfare, last year.

Not long ago, there was real self-reflection within the TV industry about whether too much television was a good thing. With more programming and plenty of other digital distractions such as Facebook and Instagram, traditional ratings were falling and executives and producers were openly complaining about just how hard it was to get their shows in front of people.

Still, the freewheeling spending of the streaming services has prompted more networks to spend more than they usually would.

It is not clear just how many players will be able to sustain that pace.

"There's no question that the streaming services are putting an enormous amount of pressure on the business model," Mr John Landgraf, chief executive of FX, said.

Indeed, last year, some cable networks such as WGN and A&E said they were abandoning scripted content because the finances made no sense. Short of a major hit, it is difficult to justify the costs.

Netflix even began cancelling some original shows last year, including The Get Down, a pricey 1970s music drama.

But cancellations have done little to stop the glut of programming.

Netflix keeps ramping up elsewhere, and the proposed merger between 21st Century Fox and Disney all but assures more of a full-out fight for content. Also, three digital titans - Apple, Facebook and Google - are aggressively entering the TV fray.

Still, with all of this content, there remain three players who make what are perceived to be the best TV shows, at least in the past year.

Shows from FX, HBO and Netflix comprised 55 per cent of the shows on critics' best-of-2017 lists, according to FX.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2018, with the headline 'Record 487 original shows in 2017'. Print Edition | Subscribe