FX boss John Langraff coined the term Peak TV, referring to the extraordinary amount of original programing across traditional networks and streaming platforms, including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, that saturated the market with more than 400 scripted television shows last year.
Not all are suffering with the abundance of scripted television. Writers benefit greatly from the growth the new landscape. “10- 15 years ago if you didn’t staff in May to start work in June you could potentially be sitting out until the next year,” writer-producer Liz Tigelaar said during a Peak TV-themed panel at the ATX TV Fest. “Now there’s just so much opportunity” and the traditional schedule has “transformed.” Also for EPs, show creators and showrunners, “there’s so many opportunities to create and sell, there’s many new places to sell,” she added.
The side effect of that “is agents are really smart” with wanting to get a show commitment right away, said Kathleen McCaffrey, VP of HBO programming. With all the different places they could take it, it’s definitely a new game.”
The game has also shifted when it comes to acquiring talent. “Any element that goes into production is in such short supply ” said Patrick Moran, EVP of ABC Studios. “Actors that you’ve never heard of now can command a very high quote. For all the artists, it does create an enormous opportunity. But for all of the studios and production companies, it does put an enormous amount of pressure on us,” he added.
With more and more clients demanding straight out offers, “very often you are spending more money for the actor,” said producer Betsy Beers. “You don’t even get to audition people anymore. The risk is high. You end up having to cast people who’ve never met.” To that, Moran added, “not having opportunities to engage with the actors… impacts the result.”
With all these platforms, Moran acknowledged a dire need to stay competitive. “With so many places making original content, your stuff has to hold up… its not secret that places like HBO or Netflix can spend more money than the broadcast networks… For the broadcast, it is harder to remain competitive with how sexy it is to be at the new kids on the block.”
One thing broadcast is doing to keep up is employing shortened seasons, a “great thing” according to Beers. “Very often you get this amazing piece of talent that you want and they want to do movies in the summer, so that will determine a lot of the choices… the doors open in a different kind of way,” she said during the panel, which also featured Beatrice Springborn, Head of Originals for Hulu, and Bryan Seabury, SVP drama for CBS..
So do the executives think we are in an era of too much TV? Moran certainly doesn’t. “I think when there’s a great television show, we all make time to watch it… I want to see it and I want to be part of the conversation. As a consumer of television I feel we have not hit the peak.” However, he said, “as a someone who makes television it is hard.”