Netflix propels TV production

It also dethroned HBO in critics' eyes

Ellie Kemper (left) and Amy Sedaris when Sedaris guested on Netflix's
Ellie Kemper (left) and Amy Sedaris when Sedaris guested on Netflix's "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt." Now Sedaris is starring in her own homemaking show on truTV. (Eric Liebowitz/Netflix)

The number of scripted TV shows released in the United States swelled to a new high in 2017, reflecting the growing efforts of Netflix, Amazon and YouTube to steal viewers and advertisers from traditional networks.

Streaming services accounted for 117 of the 487 shows released last year and almost all the growth from the 455 programs released in 2016, according to a study by FX Networks, a division of 21st Century Fox Inc.

The number of shows released in the United States has more than doubled in seven years.

Silicon Valley giants and Hollywood’s biggest studios are locked in a struggle for control of the entertainment industry, with newer online players steadily gaining ground.

Technology companies are investing in shows to attract customers to video services delivered over the internet, while the established media are spending more to keep viewers from abandoning their networks.

Netflix has become the largest supplier of new shows, increasing output from just a few programs in 2013 to dozens in 2017 in a bid to sign up more customers. The strategy has worked, with the streaming service growing to more than 109 million subscribers and its market value touching $90 billion.

Critics placed more Netflix shows on their year-end “best of” lists than any other network, surpassing HBO, according to a tally from FX. The service also has several movies and shows, including “The Crown,” competing at this weekend’s Golden Globe Awards.

While Netflix has attacked the business head on, attempting to build the dominant entertainment service on the internet, other technology giants have invested in video as part of broader agendas. Amazon.com releases dozens of TV shows and movies to build loyalty among its online shoppers, and Apple is funding TV to help sell mobile phones.

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John Landgraf, FX Networks’s CEO, has tracked production in recent years to call attention to what he says is an unsustainable surge in TV production, which he dubs “peak TV.” Networks are producing more shows than viewers have time to watch, hurting profitability.

The competition has led to consolidation among pay-TV distributors and media companies. Walt Disney agreed last month to acquire much of 21st Century Fox, including FX, for $52.4 billion. AT&T Inc. is trying to buy Time Warner for $85.4 billion and is fighting in court with the U.S. Justice Department, which opposed the deal.

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