comscore TV industry says nearly 500 original programs aired in ‘17

TV industry says nearly 500 original programs aired in ‘17

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PASADENA, Calif. >> Too many TV shows to choose from?

You’re not alone.

At least 487 original programs aired in 2017, the latest record-breaking figure for the TV industry, according to data released Friday by the cable network FX.

That’s more than the 455 shows that broadcast in 2016, more than the 288 in 2012 and far more than the 182 shows from 15 years ago.

The staggering growth largely comes from the seemingly endless budget lines that help produce new shows for streaming services. Netflix, for example, has said it would spend a $8 billion on content this year.

In 2013, the year that Netflix’s “House of Cards” premiered, there were only 24 original programs originally distributed by online services. In 2017, that number skyrocketed to 117 original programs.

Others are responsible, too, though. In the past five years, premium cable has seen a 45 percent growth rate in the number of original programs and basic cable networks a 40 percent rise; even the broadcast networks have grown by 29 percent, according to FX.

Popular new shows this past year included Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” ABC’s “The Good Doctor” and HBO’s “Big Little Lies.” And consider that “Big Little Lies” was supposed to be a one-and-done limited series but proved so successful that HBO executives — who, like their counterparts at just about every other network, are hungry for content — announced that the show would get a second season

Even lesser-known shows find themselves 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 actually a good thing. With more programming and plenty of other digital distractions like 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. And what to do about binging?

“Someone will tweet me, and they will be, like, ‘I watched all four seasons in two days,’” Australian comedian Josh Thomas said last year about his show “Please Like Me.” “And then I’m, like, “Ugh. That took me five years to fill that two days.” (He used a more colorful word than “ugh”).

There was also some discussion that the high costs required to produce quality television — a respectable drama costs at least $3 million an episode to make — would eventually prove too much for cable networks and streaming services.

Indeed, last year some cable networks like WGN and A&E said they were abandoning scripted content because the finances made no sense. Short of a major hit, it’s difficult to justify the costs. Netflix even began canceling 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 percent of the shows on critics’ year-end best-of-2017 lists, according to FX. Netflix accounted for 24 percent, HBO 21 and FX 10. The rest were distributed from dozens of other TV networks, like NBC, Showtime, Hulu and AMC.

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