Streaming TV Shows Outnumber Broadcast And Cable Series For The First Time

The Haunting of Hill House Carla Gugino Olivia Crain
(Image credit: Steve Dietl/Netflix)

FX Networks has released its annual count of scripted series, and streaming platforms have outnumbered the competition. In the running were broadcast, basic cable, pay cable, and online services. Keep in mind, this research only considers scripted television, which means no unscripted shows, a.k.a. reality series like The Bachelor, counted towards its findings.

For the first time, FX's research shows that streaming platforms' scripted series outnumber broadcast and cable. Streaming received that nod by increasing its distribution in 2018, while both broadcast and basic cable cut back. Pay cable was the only non-streaming platform to expand its distribution from 2017 to 2018. However, the report shows that it only upped its order by three.

Where its competitors trimmed back, online services' orders soared. The number of scripted streaming series went from 117 in 2017 to 160 in 2018. That is an increase of 43 shows. In comparison to 2014, the report reflects an even greater leap for streaming. During the past four years, streaming service distribution has seen an increase of 385% from 2014 to 2018.

When it comes to those cutting back, broadcast television's dip was less noticeable than basic cable's. It distributed seven less series in 2018 than 2017, whereas basic cable decreased its distribution by 31 shows.

FX's research team excluded some things from its research. They eliminated library, daytime dramas, one-episode specials, non-English language, children's programs, and short-form content. Observers know that the number of new streaming content is only set to increase over the next year.

Netflix and Amazon are reportedly aiming to double their output of original programming. Meaning 2018's new Netflix originals like The Haunting of Hill House will be getting some company.

Streaming platforms appear to be the future of the television format. That becomes more and more apparent by the day. Heavily signaling that is Disney's move to enter the streaming world. It is launching its service next year. So, the list of services involved in 2019's research is only going to increase.

Take into consideration the number of streaming services FX's research team already had to account for, and it is staggering. The number is significant: 15 in all. That includes high-profile hitters such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. FX's research also counted relative newbies such as DC Universe. Acorn TV was a new addition to this year's tabulation.

Whether streaming is going to be a bubble that eventually bursts remains to be seen. As of now, streaming appears to be an infinite power. One thing this research shows is that scripted television is thriving, all the while, commanding top talent to star in them.

In fact, the large amount of scripted series is something many may not have predicted years ago. In the age of Survivor's first years, it seemed television would be taken over by reality shows. The genre has continued without necessarily outshining scripted content, as some thought it would. As for streaming platforms, they appear to have nothing to worry about either.

Whether streaming or on cable or broadcast, many shows are airing new episodes this fall. While even more await viewers in the midseason and throughout the new year.

Britt Lawrence

Like a contented Hallmark movie character, Britt happily lives in the same city she grew up in. Along with movies and television, she is passionate about competitive figure skating. She has been writing about entertainment for 5 years, and as you may suspect, still finds it as entertaining to do as when she began.