After putting together my upfronts post, I felt the same as Josef Adalian and Maria Elean Fernandez, authors of “The Business of Too Much Television” in NYMag. How does so much TV get made? According to Adalian and Fernandez, “Between 2009 and 2015, the number of scripted shows nearly doubled, from just over 200 to an estimated 409 last year.” 409 shows. How can anyone watch even a largish fraction of that amount of content. We now have the traditional big 4/5 (NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX..and the CW), Cable TV (HBO, STARZ, Showtime), minor Cable TV (USA, TBS, SyFy, and TNT, etc), and the big streaming 3 (Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu) producing original content at such an overwhelming pace. The closest equivalent must be Paternoster Row in the nineteenth century, constantly churning out print to meet the demands of an insatiable audience. And this pace is just for scripted shows, not unscripted or so-called reality TV.
What Adalian and Fernandez do is break down the business side of this boom or “Peak TV”–i.e. follow the money from the actors to studios, crews, writers, and production spaces. It’s a long read, but worth it for the in and outs of how what we watch gets paid for. They don’t discuss where the money comes from, but I imagine that’s a different, longer article.