Consumption levels of streaming video entertainment have boomed amid the pandemic, while production studios have been slowed—and for a time, halted altogether. Pearl-clutching began almost a year ago suggesting that the major streaming services would run dry on new shows.
Based on a fair amount of anecdotal evidence, we might have arrived at that point.
According to Kasey Moore, founder and editor of the online guide What’s on Netflix, the number of original series episodes and movies debuting on Netflix this year through April 1 is down 12%, from 180 in 2020 to just 159 in 2021. New programming additions of all kinds for April on Netflix are down by more than half, from 83 in April of last year to only 40 for this month.
“It’s fair to say the content drought is here,” Moore tweeted.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw suggests plenty of other data points indicating slowdowns on other services.
HBO Max, for example, released the original series Generation in March. But its other new March releases consisted of a recut (Zack Snyder’s Justice League), two documentaries (Allen v. Farrow and Tina) and a theatrical title that was finished before the pandemic started, Godzilla vs. Kong.
By this time last year, Shaw noted, HBO had released new miniseries The New Pope and The Plot Against America, a new series, The Outsider, and new seasons of original shows Westworld and My Brilliant Friend. HBO does have new drama series Mare of Easttown, starring Kate Winslet, coming up on April 18.
Amazon Prime Video’s biggest March release was a title that Paramount unloaded amid theater closures, Coming 2 America.
And Hulu didn’t have any originals for March. Its biggest titles for the month were FX series Mayans M.C. and Fox-produced Aretha Franklin biopic Genius.
Looking around further, Peacock is debuting the original Ed Helms comedy Rutherford Falls in April. But otherwise, its big programming events seem to be WWE wrestling matches.
Disney Plus is launching David E. Kelley original series Big Shot on April 16. But otherwise, it has a National Geographic documentary on whales and some older movie titles (Night at the Museum, anyone?) lined up.
As Bloomberg noted, the pipeline for documentaries and animated shows seems to be robust. But English-language live-action titles are running predictably low. Streaming services continue to turn to foreign pipelines to find shows their audiences maybe haven't yet seen.
The No. 1 title on Netflix on Tuesday, for example is a 2020 English-language German sci-fi movie, What Lies Below.
The evidence of this predictable programming shortage isn’t all anecdotal. FX noted in late January that the number of original shows on broadcast, basic cable, premium cable and streaming dipped 7% in 2020 to 493 from their peak of 532 in 2019.
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