Streaming hits the content brakes
The Future. After years of record shows being greenlit to juice up the appeal of fledgling streaming services, troubling economic trends are forcing Hollywood to curtail how many shows they pick up — a move that will dramatically lower the simply unsustainable amount of shows available to watch. But with tech giants like Apple and Amazon increasing their spend, the hard truth may be that pure-play entertainment companies just can’t (and shouldn’t try to) keep up with the behemoth corporations with diversified businesses.
NYT asks, has Peak TV peaked?
- The number of scripted series in the US aimed at adults that have been ordered has dropped 24% from the first half of the year… and 40% lower than 2019.
- Most of the declines come from Netflix (trying to resuscitate its stock), Warner Bros. Discovery (trying to lower its debt), and Paramount (trying to compete).
- Also, several outlets backed away from original content, including cable channels like TNT, TBS, and The CW, and tech companies like Facebook and YouTube.
Considering how long it takes to make a show, it may be a couple of years until audiences feel a strange lightness in their watchlists. But with a potential writers strike next summer that would grind TV production to a halt, the lack of shows may become even more apparent by then.
None of this was a gradual decline — it was as if the brakes had been slammed. Around 325 shows were ordered in the first six months of 2022, which is more than the total of each of the past three years. Inflation, stagnant subscriber counts, churn, cord-cutting, advertising slowdowns, and Wall Street’s new love of profits was a brick wall for Hollywood.
So, the industry is now looking to cheaper productions like unscripted and international fare to keep their services fresh. Meanwhile, The Morning Show creator Jay Carson says that “in a stark reverse of what happened for 20-plus years, writers are now taking TV projects and converting them to features because they’ll be easier to get done.” Unfortunately, the water may not be much hotter on that side of the pool either.