American television viewers have become accustomed to it: Dozens of premieres every month, hundreds of shows every year, a guarantee from Hollywood that there’s always going to be something new to watch.
The so-called Peak TV era has included unexpected gems (“The White Lotus”), huge hits (“Stranger Things”), meat-and-potatoes fare (nine different series from the “Law & Order” producer Dick Wolf) and the utterly bewildering (five full seasons of the “Full House” reboot, “Fuller House,” on Netflix).
But a new reality has become increasingly clear over the past few months in Hollywood: Peak TV has peaked.
The never-ending supply of new programming that helped define the streaming era — spawning shows at a breakneck pace but also overwhelming viewers with too many choices — appears to finally be slowing.
The number of adult scripted series ordered by TV networks and streaming companies aimed for U.S. audiences fell by 24 percent in the second half of this year, compared with the same period last year, according to Ampere Analysis, a research firm. Compared with 2019, it is a 40 percent drop.
“The second half of the year has really gone off a bit of a cliff,” said Fred Black, a research manager at Ampere.
It may take some time for that to become apparent to viewers — if it becomes apparent at all, given the glut. It is usually months and sometimes more than a year for a TV show to premiere after a network orders it.
The drop is a result of broader reckoning inside the entertainment industry. For years, television executives tossed off billions of dollars on TV series to help build out their streaming services and chase subscribers. The spending has been a boon to high-profile writers and producers, who captured eight- and nine-figure deals, as well as for the actors, directors and behind-the-scenes workers who kept the engine going.
But Wall Street soured on the buy-at-any-cost strategy starting in the spring, when Netflix, the streaming powerhouse, announced that it had lost subscribers for the first time in a decade. Netflix’s stock nose-dived, and other entertainment companies soon watched their share prices fall, too. Hollywood companies quickly shifted, putting a new emphasis on higher profits instead of raw subscriber counts.