Main menu


Does New Year's Silence Signal the End of Peak TV? – The Hollywood Reporter

featured image

We’ve all seen the memes: January is the time when our out-of-office messages give way to “bounce back” emails about unfinished business left over from the pre-holiday frenzy. And while everyone else is sending and receiving a fair amount of them, the start of 2023 on the TV beat was almost total radio silence.

Outside of the plethora of premiere dates and first-look clips that have been unrolling at a rate comparable to a Randy Johnson fastball as networks and streamers fire their marketing machines back, the breaking news front has been relatively silent. A lot of that can be attributed to everyone coming back from vacation and getting back into the swing of things, but the post-holiday news cycle usually comes back with a frenzy after a day or two to get back on track.

For me, the lack of new series orders to start the year – yes, there were more than a few to close out 2022 – makes me wonder about the state of Peak TV. According to the latest FX update — thanks to Executive Vice President of Research Julie Piepenkotter for her tireless work — U.S. scripted original volume reached an all-time high in 2021 with 559 series. FX CEO John Landgraf, who coined the term “Peak TV” on a memorable Television Critics Association tour a few years ago, predicted in August that the real peak would come in 2022. The first half of last year saw 357 English speakers scripted originals, up 16% from the record pace of 2021. Since then, the economy has been in a slowdown and companies like Warner Bros. Discovery are in cost saving mode.

Scripted originals are going “unrenewed,” a term I started using in 2020 as platforms began reversing course on funding amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (TO TEAR APART, SHINE.) Only this time, the non-renewals and some surprising cancellations (looking at you, Westworld) were financially motivated rather than the logistical challenges of filming during the pandemic. Shows are also disappearing from streaming platforms in other efforts to find cost savings, as the price of top talent, showrunners and production continues to rise amid stiff competition.

FX has yet to release its annual look at the state of Peak TV – hopefully it will happen this month in the first in-person TCA since the pandemic – but the slow news cycle to start the year could also be a preview. what to expect in 2023. HBO Max and HBO are more unified than ever when it comes to developing originals, effectively reducing the number of buyers by at least one. Others, such as broadcast networks, have been focusing on low-cost unscripted programming for some time. Speaking of broadcasting, The CW – which I predict will be renamed this year by Nexstar – under former Pop TV president Brad Schwartz is tasked with making the network profitable for the first time, a sign that foreign imports low cost will be preferred. expensive American originals. (The network only has 11 originals left from its Mark Pedowitz era, three of which are in their final seasons.) Then there are the fallout from the Warner Bros. merger. Discovery that left former powerhouses TNT and TBS almost completely out of the scripted originals business. . (Oh, how I love to mock snowpiercer, who may now be one of the few poster boys to truly define the insanity of Peak TV’s mood.)

Elsewhere, Peacock is still in search of an identity and moved one of its few shows to break lightly (girls5eva) to Netflix, where it will almost undoubtedly become the next Cobra Kai. (Hands up if you subscribed to YouTube Red.) Speaking of Netflix, the streaming giant showed it wasn’t immune after a brutal hit to its stock in 2022 sparked layoffs and the launch of its (gasp!) tier supported by adverts. Even Disney is willing to make radical changes now that Bob Iger is back in his captain’s chair – albeit a little less comfortable than before.

Of course, there will be more Marvel and Star Wars it shows, but don’t bet that even the biggest of franchises can survive the uncertain economic headwinds ahead. The Game of Thrones creator George RR Martin hinted at this recently when he wrote that some of the spinoffs that were in development have been shelved.

I won’t further hex my fellow TV reporters who work alongside me in the breaking news trenches, but I will take advantage of the slow (for now) news cycle and look forward to seeing how the course correction – as executives like David Nevins called – shakes. Will that mean fewer first-year shows getting quick spinoffs and the end of franchise headquarters? Not likely, but here’s the actual peak on Peak TV in 2023. In the meantime, you can hear me ramble alongside the great Dan Fienberg on our weekly podcast, TV’s Top 5