Panel: The ‘peak TV’ theory is overrated as the ‘TV day’ gets longer

A TV of Tomorrow panel in San Francisco discounted the notion that too many shows are being produced these days. (Daniel Frankel/FierceCable)

SAN FRANCISCO—FX Network chief John Langraf created a sensation in 2015 when, quoting an Emmy Magazine story, he rendered viral the phrase “peak TV”—the phenomena of too many TV shows for audience demand to support.

Since that that time, the original programming glut associated with TV's so-called Golden Age has only gotten more pronounced, with Netflix leading the arms race by spending $8 billion on more than 700 individual pieces of content this year.

But why hasn't this bubble burst by now?

“The TV day has gotten longer,” theorized Sherry Brennan, senior VP of distribution for Fox Networks, proposing an interesting theory Wednesday at the TV of Tomorrow conference in sunny, breezy Golden Gate Park.

Sure, the day is still 24 hours long. But in terms of the TV day, the proliferation of the “number of pieces of glass with which we can watch TV, whether it be a phone or a computer or a TV set, has more than doubled,” Brennan said. This has caused us to watch more TV each day.

“There’s 2.5 devices per person, and that includes babies,” she added.

Speaking on the same late-afternoon panel at the annual trade conference, held in a building that used to be part of San Francisco's Presidio Naval complex, Kalen Egan, a writer on Amazon’s "Man in the High Castle,” noted that the loss-leader business strategies of digital giants like Amazon and Netflix have changed the metrics of success for many shows.

Amazon, after all, may call "Man in the High Castle" a success, he explained. But its viewership is nothing like HBO's "Game of Thrones" or "Westworld."

"We're in a different league in terms of what's required to be called a success," Egan said.

Meanwhile, Jaime Davila, president of Campanario Entertainment, suggested there is no programming glut in terms of what's being programmed for many of America’s ethnic groups.

“There is a bubble for shows that can win best drama series at the Emmys,” Davilla said.