Popular new shows this past year included Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” ABC’s “The Good Doctor” and HBO’s “Big Little Lies.” And consider that “Big Little Lies” was supposed to be a one-and-done series, but that it proved so successful that HBO executives — who, like their counterparts at just about every other network, are hungry for content — announced that the show would get a second season.
Even lesser-known shows are plugging along. “Fuller House,” a Netflix revival of the old ABC family sitcom, released its third season, to little fanfare, last year.
Not long ago, there was real self-reflection within the TV industry about whether too much television was a good thing. With more programming and plenty of other digital distractions like Facebook and Instagram, traditional ratings were falling and executives and producers were openly complaining about just how hard it was to get their shows in front of people. And what to do about bingeing?
“Someone will tweet me, and they will be, like, ‘I watched all four seasons in two days,’” the Australian comedian Josh Thomas said last year about his show, “Please Like Me.” “That took me five years to fill that two days,” he added, with an expletive for emphasis.
Still, the freewheeling spending of the streaming services has prompted more networks to spend more than they usually would. (A respectable drama costs at least $3 million an episode to make.) It is not clear just how many players will be able to sustain that pace.
“There’s no question that the streaming services are putting an enormous amount of pressure on the business model,” John Landgraf, the chief executive of FX, said at a news media event on Friday.
Indeed, last year some cable networks, like WGN and A&E, said they were abandoning scripted content because the finances made no sense. Short of a major hit, it’s difficult to justify the costs. Netflix even began canceling some original shows last year, including “The Get Down,” a pricey 1970s music drama.
But cancellations have done little to stop the glut of programming.
Netflix keeps ramping up elsewhere, and the proposed merger between 21st Century Fox and Disney all but assures more of a full-out fight for content. Also, three digital titans — Apple, Facebook and Google — are aggressively entering the TV fray.
With all of this content, there remain three players that make what are perceived to be the best TV shows, at least in the past year.
FX, HBO and Netflix accounted for 55 percent of the shows on critics’ best-of-2017 lists, according to FX. Netflix had 24 percent, HBO 21 percent and FX 10 percent. The rest were distributed by dozens of other TV networks, like NBC, Showtime, Hulu and AMC.