PASADENA, Calif. — After years of warning signs about the deluge of television shows on the air, the era of “peak TV” is truly over, the head of FX Networks told reporters Friday.
In his annual “peak TV” update at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, John Landgraf said the number of new scripted series in the U.S. dropped from a record high of 600 in 2022, to 516 in 2023.
Part of that decline was due to the writers’ and actors’ strikes last summer and fall. But Landgraf said the slowdown in production was likely already underway, given the unsustainability of producing a seemingly endless amount of television.
“I believe at one point there were more than 60 networks and brands making adult scripted original programming, which was just as unsustainable and overwhelming to the audience as making 600 adult scripted shows,” Landgraf said. “And as most companies have now come to realize, quantity does not always lend itself to quality.”
The FX Networks chairman attributed the decline to “the realignment of industry priorities from streaming scale at any cost to profitability,” and he predicted that shift will “continue after the strikes, leading to the cancellation of numerous projects and series.”
“While I understand this is a very small sample of time, and some of the decline may still be related to delays in production from the strikes, I do believe these numbers are directionally accurate,” Landgraf said. “I’ve not had a good sense of where this will level out. So I’m not making any predictions except to forecast that in 2024 we’re going to see more year-on-year declines.”
FX Networks Chairman John Landgraf predicted a further decline in the number of new scripted series as he spoke to reporters Friday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena, California.
A related trend in television has been networks and streaming platforms rolling back diversity efforts and canceling a disproportionate amount of shows from creators of color. Asked by HuffPost about his outlook on diversity across the industry, Landgraf said he was concerned about it broadly.
However, he stressed that the tools are already there for networks to invest in a diverse slate of programming and creators, citing FX as an example of success.
“It’s the actual care in representation in the way the shows are made, and the way they descend into the particular cultures of the people that they portray, and the way that authenticity actually opens up new business and storytelling, and it makes everything better,” he said. “So for me, the diversification of voices and stories is something I believe in, and it’s not charity work. It’s an actual strategic imperative to get the shows as good as they can be, the best possible people working, and we’ve built a system to do this, and we built it really deep and really broad. I can’t speak very eloquently from the whole industry, but I can tell you that is not affecting FX.”
Among those steps, he added later, is taking a good look at who is getting offered production deals and to diversify the decision-makers in the room.
“We’ve also worked really hard to change the composition of our staff, the staff that’s listening to the pitches, so that a person of color doesn’t have to sell to people that don’t look like them. So it’s really about trying to change the composition of the people you work with and make sure that reflects the society we live in.”