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Number of Scripted TV Shows Declined in 2020, FX Says

Rune Fisker for Variety

Even Peak TV felt the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of original scripted series to premiere in 2020 was 493, according to data released Friday by FX Networks — down 7% from 2019. That marks the first such year-to-year decline since FX first began an annual count of scripted series on broadcast, cable and streaming several years ago.

FX did not provide further details. The release of data detailing the volume of adult-oriented programming has been a staple of FX Networks chief John Landgraf’s regular Television Critics Association press tour Q&A sessions — in which he coined the expression “Peak TV” to describe what he characterized early on as an unsustainable growth in programming volume. In recent years, Landgraf has acknowledged that that growth has proved more sustainable than he originally thought, driven by the rush of media giants into the subscription-video space pioneered by streamer Netflix.

Past data released by FX had shown a constant upward trend in programming volume beginning in 2010, when 216 original series premiered — only 34 more than in 2002. In 2019, according to FX, 532 series premiered. Last year at press tour, Landgraf told journalists that number was likely to increase in 2020, “which to me is just bananas.” Almost all growth in recent years has come from streaming video, with broadcast plateauing and basic cable beginning to show declines.

FX released no breakdown of where series premiered in 2020. But the new count demonstrates the effect that the coronavirus pandemic had on television production, effectively halting shooting for a good chunk of 2020.

Variety's Daniel Holloway contributed to this post.

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