In the past, ongoing TV comedies and dramas have seen anywhere from 22 to 24 episodes per season. Now, for the coming season of new shows, set to start next month, CBS has staked out a post-pandemic world. Its shows will see 16 to 18 episodes for the season.
Beyond this, it has been a different competitive environment.
Netflix, Amazon and especially many traditional cable TV networks, can offer nine, 10, or just 13 episodes seasons for certain shows. Plus, on the streaming platforms, subscribers can blow through all of them in a weekend. And that meant more TV/movie production at streamers.
Can legacy TV networks keep up? All this is occurring as TV networks look to sustain the ad-supported network model -- where big-brand advertising is sold all year long.
Imagine if broadcast networks were to schedule -- in a linear TV way -- a season worth of 20 or some odd episodes of “NCIS” over say a week-long Tuesday to Friday period. That would be chaos.
But now think ahead five, seven, 10 years from now? Legacy TV network companies could get to a new tipping point, when their streaming platforms -- Peacock, Disney+, Paramount+, or whatever -- could see more original prime-time-quality shows than on live, linear TV networks.
Legacy TV networks’ businesses -- especially those with streaming platforms -- will need to adapt to a different model, one where subscription fees will be more of factor, working alongside lesser advertising loads but higher pricing.
The goal would be produce even more overall TV series -- ones with limited numbers of episodes per season, as well as shorter overall series lives. (Netflix exemplifies the latter.)
In the interim, a bigger question is: How long can major TV brand advertisers -- buying in perhaps a dwindling upfront advertising market -- stay with the program?