Peak TV Update: Scripted Series Volume Hits All-Time High in 2021

Peak TV Update: Scripted Series Volume Hits All-Time High in 2021

A downturn in the number of scripted series in 2020 turned out not to be the start of a trend.

The number of scripted series available in the United States hit an all-time high in 2021, according to FX’s annual count of shows across streaming, cable and broadcast outlets. The year featured 559 English-language scripted shows — a 13 percent jump from 2020 (when there were 496 series) and 5 percent higher than the previous peak of Peak TV, 532 shows in 2019.

In raw numbers, the year-to-year growth of 63 series is the most since FX’s research team started tracking the total number of scripted shows. The percentage increase is the largest since the count went from 288 to 349 in 2013, a jump of 21 percent. The total number of scripted shows has more than doubled in the last decade; in 2011 there were 266 scripted series.

Since FX’s research counts only English-language shows, it does not include international breakout series like Squid Game and Money Heist, both of which drew sizable audiences in the United States, nor the numerous offerings on Spanish-language broadcasters like Univision and Telemundo. The count also excludes daytime dramas and children’s programming — to say nothing of the hundreds of unscripted series across all platforms.

The downturn in 2020 was caused in part by effects of the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, which cause production shutdowns worldwide and led to several series being “un-renewed.” As vaccines against COVID-19 became widely available and safety protocols became a regular part of the business, however, production ramped back up again for much of 2021 (though the highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus has led to a number of temporary shutdowns in the past month).

FX’s count includes series that debuted new episodes in 2021 on broadcast (including PBS) and cable networks and 21 streaming outlets — ranging from major players like Netflix and Disney+ to niche services including Shudder and AllBlk.

The scripted series count since 2009 is below, per FX research.

2009: 210


2010: 216


2011: 266


2012: 288


2013: 349


2014: 389


2015: 420


2016: 454


2017: 487


2018: 495


2019: 532


2020: 496


2021: 559

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