John Landgraf’s Peak TV Prediction: 2022 will have the most series ever

He’s been wrong before – he once said that 2015 could be the pinnacle. But Landgraf has numbers to back up its record-breaking 2022 status.

Last year set a record for the number of scripted adult original series, but the “peak TV” era probably hasn’t peaked yet, at least if you ask FX chairman John Landgraf. (As a television executive who coined the term, Landgraf would be a good person to ask. Then again, he’s made that claim before.)

During an executive session at the Television Critics Association press tour on Tuesday, the FX brand boss offered some reading on the seemingly never-ending output of more and more TV shows. “2022 will be the high watermark – in other words, it will mark the culmination of the ‘Peak TV’ era,” he said.

Landgraf has been wrong before, and he is the first to admit that his prediction may have been “foolish”. But he has data on his side, thanks to FX Research’s number crunchers.

In the first half of 2022, 357 scripted series were launched across broadcast, cable and streaming. That is 16 percent more than in the same period last year. And last year’s 559 shows set an all-time record, up 13 percent from the COVID-related drop in 2020 and up 23 percent from five years earlier.

“Due to the pandemic, it’s been difficult to pinpoint where scripted series production might peak,” Landgraf said. “This year we’ve seen a tidal wave of scripted programs thanks to the COVID-delayed production bottleneck finally unraveling.”

In 2015, before the same audience of television critics and reporters, Landgraf predicted that the number of scripted series would peak in 2015 or 2016. He changed that the following year when he said he expected the 2019 peak to be followed by a drop next year, when he bemoaned there was “just too much TV” and “oversupply” and the negative impact of technology monopolies on creativity.

So much has changed since then, including Landgraf’s tenor. Tuesday’s prediction came with no warnings or caveats; he painted it as “sticking his neck out” for fun. Now Landgraf’s employer Disney is one of the top streaming players, with tens of millions of subscribers ahead of its old competitors.

Disney has a total of 205 million subscribers across its streaming services, compared to market leader Netflix’s 220.67 million subscribers. HBO and HBO Max have 76.8 million subscribers, Paramount has 62 million across its platforms, and Peacock has 28 million monthly active accounts.

“I think all the major streaming services are up now, right?” Landgraf said. “I think that process is complete. In other words, I don’t see new, major providers of programming entering the scene as they have consistently done for the past decade or more. In fact, there are some former television program providers who are leaving the scene. In other words, you’re at a point now where you’re not really adding suppliers, although you’re subtracting suppliers to some extent.”

Streamers have started to cool off from previous content spending frenzy. Netflix is ​​tightening its belt after two straight quarters of subscriber losses. And David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, says he’s not willing to overspend just to amass more subscribers.

Landgraf, who previously oversaw FX Networks, now finds himself as the custodian of original programming under the FX brand, content premiering on either FX, FXX or Hulu. “FX’s original programming initiative has made a successful transition from primarily serving linear cable channels to reconstitution as a multi-platform brand with Hulu as its ubiquitous US streaming home,” he said.

Time will tell if Landgraf finally got his Peak TV prediction right. “It’s going to be a year and a half before I find out if I’m right this time or I’ll have to eat crow again,” he said.

Tony Maglio contributed to the coverage.

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Lindsay Lowe

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