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A few weeks ago, FX put out a report that there were 409 scripted series that were aired in 2015 across broadcast, cable and streaming. It was definitely a new high, and marked the third year of growth across all platforms. But as mountainous as that number may seem, it is positively dwarfed by the amount of unscripted reality shows that aired last year: around 750. And that was just on cable during primetime hours. You may now pick your jaws up off the floor.
Interestingly enough, this number was tallied up by the head of another network, in this case National Geographic Global Networks CEO Courtney Monroe. She delivered the astounding results at this week’s Television Critics Association winter press tour, according to Vox, and also pointed out that roughly 350 of those shows weren’t even around beforehand and made their debut in 2015. You could have spent the entire year watching one new reality show a day and still have had some leftover. Mind-boggling.
It would be nearly impossible for a random TV viewer to name all 750 reality shows, even if given all the time in the world, as many of them never attain the popularity or ratings of headline-making shows like Duck Dynasty and the now-defunct 19 Kids and Counting. For instance, you might not ever know that Discovery airs a show called Lost and Sold unless someone on the show got into some kind of a controversial situation, but that doesn’t mean the series doesn’t have its own core fanbase keeping it on the air.
It’s easy to think about shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians and the Real Housewives franchise and rail against them for pandering to viewers and offering little to enhance the culture. Those points are arguable, but those shows and plenty of other under-the-radar series are extremely cheap to make in comparison to stunt-filled scripted series with ensemble casts like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. (Sure, soon-to-end Mythbusters has lots of stunts, but it’s still a lot cheaper to produce.) Plus, they each offer plenty of people jobs within the industry. So from a network standpoint, it’s hard to knock filling the schedule with unscripted fare.
New networks are seemingly always popping up, and the number of streaming outlets is also growing, so it’s likely we won’t see a dip in that number any time soon. Do you guys think there’s too much TV out there? Or maybe too much of a certain kind? Grab a camera and make a show about it, and maybe there’s a cable network out there that will pick it up to air by the end of the year.