The streaming revolution has helped set a brand new record for the number of scripted dramas and comedies available on TV and video platforms.
According to data collected by Disney-owned basic cable channel FX, 532 scripted series were produced in 2019, an increase of 7 percent over 2018. To put the number into context, in July of 2017 the number of scripted series stood at 305.
"Given that the streaming wars are now at hand, that total will increase substantially this year, which to me is just bananas," FX CEO John Landgraf told TV critics in Los Angeles at the annual Television Critics Association's winter press tour.
While basic cable networks like Bravo, CMT, VH1, WGN America and E! have abandoned original scripted series, Disney+ and AppleTV+ came online in 2019 and while the forthcoming HBOMax hasn’t launched yet, it has been aggressive in giving the green light to new scripted programs.
It has been well-documented that the king of streaming, Netflix, has been leading the charge, boldly stating it will spend between $14 and $16 billion on content. Often competition breeds lower prices, but that is not the case when it comes to series production costs.
A decade ago, a standard drama on network television cost a little over $1 million per episode. Today, budgets 10 times that on streaming services are not out of the norm. AppleTV+'s “The Morning Show” starring Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carrell reportedly costs $15 million per episode.
“The $10 million-an-episode budget used to be an extraordinary number,” Warren Littlefield, former NBC Entertainment chief and now producer of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” told Variety recently. “While that’s a lot of money, it’s just not considered extraordinary anymore.”
High salaries contribute to the rising costs. Aniston and co-star Reese Witherspoon reportedly receive $1.25 million per episode for 10 episodes of “The Morning Show.”
Show creators and writers are banking big bucks too. The creators of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” -- David Benioff and Dan Weiss – abandoned their longtime TV home and the soon-to-launch AT&T-owned HBOMax for a $200 million multiyear film and TV deal with Netflix.
Such rising costs will eventually be passed down to consumers via the monthly subscription. But consumers do not have a huge appetite for paying more. As FOX Business reported earlier this week, three-quarters of U.S. consumers don’t want to pay more than $30 a month for streaming services.