Off-Peak TV: Number of U.S. Scripted Shows Fell 24% in 2023, Study Finds

Scripted TV output in the U.S. dropped sharply in 2023, thanks to a combination of twin Hollywood strikes and a pullback on content spending, according to a new study from research firm Ampere Analysis.

In the U.S., the number of scripted series released last year dropped 24%, to a total of 481. That’s down from 633 in each of 2021 and 2022 — which may have been the apex years for “Peak TV.” According to Ampere, because of the time lag between series being greenlit and their premieres, the number is unlikely to rise in 2024.

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The bulk of the decline in 2023 was due to subscription streaming services releasing 77 fewer seasons than the prior year and broadcast TV networks releasing 55 fewer seasons. Broadcast releases have been falling slowly for many years, but the drop in 2023 could mostly be attributed to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, delaying many new scripted seasons on broadcast TV to a midseason start in January and February 2024.

The potential for truncated ’23-’24 seasons doubling up with full ’24-’25 seasons starting in the fall may produce a temporary bounce in seasons released on broadcast in 2024, which was a phenomenon observed in 2021 following the peak of the COVID pandemic, according to Ampere.

“While 2024 will see some level of a bounce-back in the content being ordered, many of these titles will be released in 2025, meaning any recovery is likely to be slow going,” said Fred Black, principal analyst at Ampere Analysis.

Netflix reduced its releases from 107 in 2022 to 68 in 2023 — a drop that began in the first half of 2023, so the streamer’s pullback can’t entirely be blamed on the strikes. Other reductions came at Peacock (20 fewer titles), Hulu (11), Max (nine) and Paramount+ (four). In addition, while other players like Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+ and Disney+ roughly maintained the number of series they released in 2023, only Prime Video maintained the series it ordered, which means that 2024 will be even lighter for almost all the major subscription streamers.

Meanwhile, the overall TV pipeline is skewing toward international shows rather than those from the U.S. on major American subscription-based streaming services, per Ampere. After 2023’s cutbacks at the top eight subscription VOD providers, there were 295 new international shows (down from 429) compared with 202 new U.S. commissions (down from 342). “The strikes are partly the cause but also conceal the broader story of internationalization and the decentering of Hollywood as the core of the world’s TV industry,” the research firm said.

Pictured above: Netflix’s “Beef” starring Ali Wong, Steven Yeun

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