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2021 Breaks Record For Most Original Series Across TV and Streaming

Lauren Forristal

According to the recent exclusive report “Fading Ratings” from the Variety Intelligence Platform (VIP+), 2021 saw a record number of 1,923 original series across cable, broadcast, TV, and streaming services. In 2019, the total number was 1,628 and there was a drop to 1,577 in 2020. This means the year 2021 saw a spike of 346 original series, up by 22%.

More importantly, this is the first time that subscription streaming’s output has been higher than cable’s.

This rise in streaming comes thanks in part to cable networks themselves, especially since they have been moving content to new SVOD services like discovery+, which accounted for 169 shows this year alone. Other SVODs connected to cable TV companies released 459 originals.

In terms of which is doing better overall - cable or streaming - well, it’s hard to tell. The VIP+ report suggests that cable dominates unscripted shows this year whereas streaming overtakes dramas.

Unscripted shows saw the best growth in 2021, up by 26% YoY and accounting for 61% of all originals. Cable won this category, but only by the skin of their teeth, at 581 new series and streaming uploading 491 series this year. Even with cable networks putting its resources into their respective streaming services, cable has the most unscripted originals, at least for now.

Meanwhile, streaming has overshadowed cable in terms of dramas since 2018. This year, streaming services have three times as many drama series than on cable. Streaming platforms have released 311 dramas, which is 216 more than cable. Broadcast only released 78.

Could TV peak in the next couple of years? These results suggests that it’s a definite possibility. Subscription streaming desperately wants to get the most subscribers and will release more and more originals in 2022 to do just that. Also, free streaming services like the Roku Channel and Tubi are also getting their foot in the race with more original series in order to draw audiences. Based on everything we have seen so far, 2022 may be the year that original series reaches a total of 2,000 for the first time in history.

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