Broadcast, Ad-Supported Cable Witness Declines, But Digital TV On Roll

Scripted TV series -- still the high-water mark in terms of quality for many a TV programmer -- witness some good and bad news for traditional TV networks this year.

FX Networks, which now regularly releases estimates on such data, says 2016 witnessed an 8% increase in the overall number scripted TV shows, totaling 455 from 421 in 2015. But this gain did not come from traditional linear TV networks.

Digital video/online services -- like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu -- produced 93 scripted series -- a 100% rise from the year before (2015), when it was the 46.

At the same time, broadcast, advertising-supported cable and premium pay TV networks all had declines. Broadcast had 145 series in 2016 (from 150 in 2015); ad-supported cable saw 181 (from 188); and premium cable networks recorded 36 (down from 37).

Declines are slight. But for traditional TV networks, it was the first pull back since the 2010 season, when the number of scripted TV shows for broadcast fell from 116 from 122 in 2009. This two-year period was for TV networks -- and many other businesses -- a tough one, in the midst of the big U.S. economic recession period.



Current scripted results speak to where the new on-demand TV marketplace is going -- and what consumers will pay for it. The shift of high-priced scripted TV programs to digital platforms means there is no turning back.

But as many TV marketing executives have noted -- including John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks -- the business still struggles in deciding how to support all this content -- especially when it comes to marketing.

Case in point: Amazon spent major dollars in production, and well as buying expensive traditional TV network advertising time to market its show “Good Girls Revolt.”  But after weeks of starting up, it pulled the plug. In an attempt to build a bench of new digitally delivered original TV programs, we could see more of dramatic changes.

When will the current supply of new scripted TV programs for digital services hit its threshold? Probably not anytime soon. Industry leader Netflix says it will spend $6 billion next year in developing new shows. (By way of comparison, it is estimated NBC will spend $4.3 billion on TV development next year; CBS, $4 billion.)

New TV programmers will continue to focus on some old TV thinking. Producing original, high-quality TV content continues to be prized. Content isn’t just king. The monarch needs to put on a bit more weight.

1 comment about "Broadcast, Ad-Supported Cable Witness Declines, But Digital TV On Roll".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 22, 2016 at 10:02 a.m.

    Of course, scripted primetime dramas and sitcoms are among the highlights of the viewing experience for many people, however, they are not the only reason we watch TV. In fact, if we count the movies, documentaries, news, sports, game shows, an endless array of supposedly non-scripted "reality" fare, talk shows, etc. etc. as well as off-network or otherwise syndicated reruns of sit coms and dramas, scripted primetime qulaity shows represent a fraction of our total TV diet. Which makes the SVOD/OTT/digital move into this area all the more interesting.

     I'm not suggesting that alternative programmers should try to compete with news, daytime talk shows, game shows, many kinds of reality programs, etc., though there may be some movement in the sports arena in the near future. I'm just pointing out that they are contending with the TV Establishment---the broadcast networks-----for perhaps 5-7% of the total TV viewing pie---a rather restricted battleground, where rating attrition will apply to all parties.

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