Each TV season brings a slew of new critically acclaimed, must-watch series. Over the last decade the number of original scripted programs has continued to rise, except for a brief dip in 2020 due to the pandemic, giving audiences fresh faces and new ideas to engage with season after season. With a new television season on the horizon, it is a good time to take a look at where the contemporary TV industry finds itself.
According to research conducted year after year by FX Networks, 2021 set a record for the number of original scripted programs at 559. Compare that to the 455 original scripted programs that premiered five years ago in 2016, around the time the term “peak TV” was coined. In that time, groundbreaking series like “Pose” and “Insecure” have challenged conventional wisdom of what a successful TV show looks like. New players have found their voices and soared in that short amount of time, as new audiences flock to innovative stories.
The contemporary TV marketplace is one characterized by diversity on every level—genre, aesthetic, format, cast, crew, etc. That’s a formula that has led to success, as seen in HBO’s lauded fan-favorite “Euphoria” which just returned for its second season after a years-long hiatus due to the pandemic. The show follows Rue, a drug-addicted teenager played by Zendaya as she navigates sobriety, relapse, sexual identity, and figuring out her place in the world. When the new season premiered in January 2022, approximately 13.1 million viewers tuned in, almost double what the show saw per episode during its first season.
With more competition for viewers’ attention, studios are investing more and more into production value, delivering cinematic style epics as well as single camera comedies. Whether it is an unscripted show about the luxe life of Salt Lake City’s upper crust, or a documentary series showcasing the best roadside diners, cable TV has invested billions in delivering America’s favorite shows. In the past two decades, over $430 billion has been invested by America’s cable TV networks. That investment has paid off big for audiences: more options than ever before means anyone can find the program that’s right for them.
As a new season of television begins, Americans can expect to see more original programming thanks to the continued investment by cable TV networks. When more stories get told, the opportunity for innovation only increases. Whether it’s sci-fi or reality, cable continues to deliver America’s favorite shows.