Netflix and Co.: The golden age of series appears to be winding down

Of course, that’s far too many series to complete – no one can watch them all: in 2022, 599 new and ongoing English-language series have been released in the US. The previous year, there were 559, according to an annual count by television researchers at The Walt Disney Company’s FX Research, which records productions at broadcast, cable and broadcast companies in the United States.

However, FX president John Landgraf said Thursday that fantasy series production slowed dramatically in the second half of 2022, according to reports from industry publications such as Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. This may be a sign that the chain noise has peaked and that the peak has been passed. In short: everything descends from now on. The New York Times said last December that the golden age of live broadcasting was suddenly fading away.

In the USA, there has been talk of the years Peak TV, also known as Peak TV. According to FX Research, the total number of fantasy script series (original scripted series) has more than doubled since 2012. At that time, there were 288 scripted series, only 15 of which were from streaming services, which began booming in 2013 with the hit of Netflix “House of Cards”.

Peak TV stands for the past 10 years, marked by a slew of so-called high-end series, that is, globally successful, innovatively told, high-quality productions that have shaped global entertainment culture.

Netflix has set the tone in all of this (according to its own statements, “With 223 million paying members in more than 190 countries, it is the largest streaming entertainment service in the world”). Since the advent of Disney +, Apple TV + and other service providers, American media experts have liked to talk militaristically about the current “streaming war”.

In this battle, for example, the abrupt end of “1899” is causing a stir these days. The new Netflix series by the creators of “Dark” Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese from Germany was meant to go on. But now the series about a mysterious immigrant ship will leave many questions unanswered after just one season (instead of the planned three). For the millions of fans who invested nearly seven hours of their lives into the first eight episodes, this is a bitter disappointment.

But Netflix introduces a new toughness: What doesn’t work enough will be shut down. What Netflix sees as “success” is unclear with the streaming service so sparse in connectivity. One thing that is clear is that the group probably collects a lot of data internally about the use of its content – for example how many people watch an entire series or where they go.

Until 2022, growth in subscription numbers seemed to be the most important thing for Netflix. Now more attention is paid to profitability. In order to make money, action is taken against multiple use of customer accounts by sharing passwords or offering a subscription model with ads, although for years it was the subtle difference in classic TV that it was ad-free.

With “1899”, filmed in Potsdam-Babelsberg, among other things the most expensive German soap opera production to date, Netflix’s expectations were also exponentially high due to the high costs of computer technology and kits – clearly not being met.

After the boom years, there is now a definite reluctance to feel it, especially with financially expensive projects or very bold ideas, says screenplay professor Timo Gossler of the Film University of Babelsberg. “It wasn’t really surprising—it was clear to everyone that this wasn’t going to go on forever.”

The interesting question now is what to make of the television industry, which has changed dramatically in just a few years. “The industry must now do everything it can to continue on the path of diversity in series, genres, characters, ambitious approaches, and exciting new voices and perspectives, which has only blossomed as a result.”

It’s about a new awareness of quality in storytelling, says specialist Gossler (“The German Room – The Room of American Writers in German Series Development”). “It may be simplistic, but I hope that with a little more production now, the quality will prevail.” Gossler says he also sees an opportunity for public service providers. Their financial situation is – still – much more independent of the economic situation of the global market than that of private players.

Fashion and fashion magazine WWD has already predicted 2023: “This year may mark the end of Netflix’s launch of what we used to call television.” Wall Street is no longer under the sway of a potential gold rush, inflation and recession are looming, and the media industry will have to live with it. According to WWD, that’s not really a bad thing, because there has been an irrational exuberance among content providers because they’ve been inundated with subscription money. The digital maw has been fed a lot of things. “Decades of great development have rained down on trusted achievers (Shonda Rhimes, Ryan Murphy) but also on people who have never seen a development meeting from the inside (Obama, Harry and Meghan).”

The Los Angeles Times also notes that overproduction in recent years has also caused “untraceability”: “Much of what is produced is lost in the boundless space of the rotating circles of streaming services.”


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