2015: Year of 'peak TV' hits record with 409 original series

It's being called "peak TV," meaning that the number of original scripted television productions -- including an avalanche of high-quality shows -- might be reaching an unsustainable level.

FX Networks Chief Executive John Landgraf last summer caused something of a stir in the television industry when he described the explosion of TV production in true economic terms: the industry might be in a bubble.

Although the glut of original scripted programming has been an economic boon to the Los Angeles film community, Landgraf sounded a cautionary note by saying the ramped-up pace of the production and seemingly endless selections of scripted series appeared to be reaching its peak.

At the time, Landgraf said scripted series would reach its peak either in 2015 or 2016.

On Wednesday, FX Networks released new research that underscores Landgraf's point. This year, the combined total of scripted series on broadcast networks, basic and pay cable networks and streaming services, so-called over-the-top services, hit a record of 409, said Julie Piepenkotter, executive vice president of research for FX Networks.

“The unprecedented increase in the number of scripted series has reached a new milestone in 2015 with a record 409, nearly doubling the total in just the past six years," Piepenkotter said.

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"This was the third consecutive year that scripted series count has grown across each distribution platform -- broadcast, basic and pay cable, streaming -- led by significant gains in basic cable and digital services," she said.

The number of scripted series this year jumped 9% compared with 2014, which saw 376 original TV productions, and was up a whopping 94% from 2009, when there were 211 such series. 

"This statistic is staggering and almost unimaginable from where they were a decade ago," Piepenkotter said.

FX is credited for dramatically accelerating the trend as the first basic cable channel that showcased high-quality original scripted shows. In 2002, FX launched the critically acclaimed police drama "The Shield." 

On Wednesday, FX said that the greatest growth in scripted series occurred on basic cable networks, going from 31 original productions to 181. FX said the combined total did not include reality, news or sports shows, made-for-television movies, specials, daytime or children’s programming.

The proliferation of streaming services has also boosted the number of shows available to viewers. Netflix, Amazon.com and Hulu all have increased the number of original episodes available as a way to differentiate their services.

Twitter: @MegJamesLAT

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