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The Golden Age Fizzles: US Scripted Shows See Dramatic Decline in 2023

Remember those days when you could barely keep track of all the new shows you wanted to watch? Well, buckle up, because the television landscape just shifted dramatically. The year 2023 saw a steep decline in the number of US scripted shows, marking a turning point in the era of “peak TV.”

FX network chief John Landgraf, who coined the term “peak TV” in 2013, delivered the sobering news: the number of scripted shows dropped a whopping 14% last year, with 516 hitting the airwaves compared to 600 in 2022. While Hollywood’s strikes played a part, Landgraf believes the decline was already underway, signaling a paradigm shift in the industry.

This downward trend isn’t just a blip. The first five weeks of 2024 have seen a 31% decrease in scripted programming compared to the same period last year. While it’s early days, this trend suggests we might be witnessing a sustained shift in content creation.

But what’s driving this sudden slowdown? Several factors are likely at play. Streaming wars have entered a new phase, with companies like Netflix and Disney+ focusing on profitability over unchecked expansion. This means stricter budgets and a more cautious approach to greenlighting new shows. Additionally, investor pressure for better returns is pushing studios to be more selective in their content choices.

This isn’t necessarily bad news for viewers. Quality over quantity could be the new mantra. With fewer shows vying for attention, we might see more focus on high-quality productions with compelling stories and talented actors. However, it could also mean fewer opportunities for new voices and niche genres, potentially limiting diversity in the content landscape.

The future of television remains to be seen. Will this decline be temporary or the start of a new era? Only time will tell. But one thing’s for sure: the days of endless content streams may be coming to an end, forcing both creators and viewers to adapt and appreciate the shows we have even more.

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