Original SVOD content: back in business

Original content is again flooding SVOD screens, with the number of titles released by major providers swelling by 50% from the year-ago total.

Our latest VODTRAK® audit of leading streaming services finds original titles – programs not seen elsewhere in the consumer video arena – rose by 50% from a year earlier to approach nearly 30,000 series and/or one-off features. The increase is a function not just of increasing investments from category veterans, but the impact of new entrants like discovery+, Paramount+, and others.

As has been the case since we began tracking originals, Netflix remains the runaway category leader, accounting for some two-thirds of the original titles we tracked in our May-August census. Netflix is still well ahead of its nearest rival, Amazon, which had fewer than 5,000 original titles on the menu. Looking at the totals through another lens, Netflix subscribers had access to more than 6x the number of originals Walt Disney Co. offered via the combination of the Disney+ and Hulu services.

The road to the current (record) total has been a bumpy one. The health pandemic all but shut down original television production through much of 2020. That meant only those providers with finished but not-yet-streamed projects could continue to bulk up their original offerings before production ramped back up starting late in the year.

Next? Reflecting this broader industry downturn, researchers at FX Networks calculated that original scripted series across the entire U.S. television environment slipped 7% in 2020, the first decline FX tracked in a decade. FX counted 493 new scripted series that showed up on screens last year, versus the 2019 record of 532. (Note that FX reports the number of original series, not individual episodes, and limits its scope to scripted content.)

This trendline helps to explain why the growth in original program presentation on streaming services was lower in late 2020 (up by just 11.7% from the immediately previous period) than it was in the latest audit period, when we counted a 13.5% increase in titles. Going forward, we expect total original volume to rise past the recent level as major providers bring more projects to the screen. Among many high-profile originals that will be part of our next audit are HBO Max’s “Succession” season 3; season 2 of “The Morning Show” from Apple TV+, Peacock’s teen drama “One of Us Is Lying,” and, from Netflix, the docu-series “Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror,” plus the action thriller “Kate” featuring Mary Elizabeth Winstead. 

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