Last year, there were a record 532 original scripted shows on American TV and streaming platforms–compared to 200 just 10 years ago. It’s up for debate whether these numbers mean we’re in the “golden age of TV”, but one thing is for sure: the swelling popularity for the serialized format has changed everything from how we tell stories, to what stories get told, to how we consume them and where. And we think that any brand with a story to tell needs to pay attention.
Netflix, and the resurgent popularity of the serialized format has upended storytelling conventions, and it’s vital for marketers to understand the implications of increasingly emotional storytelling. The TV boom has paved the way for more character-driven stories, stronger emotional connections, opportunities to explore stories that used to be off-limits, and brands are taking note. Nike’s Colin Kapernick ads were a masterclass in emotional, character-driven storytelling. For more on how brands can adapt to the new age of storytelling, this Forbes article by Rebecca Vogels is a great place to start.
TV tends to get viewers more heavily-invested than standalone movies, and that could be one of the driving forces behind the TV boom. In terms of who’s sponsoring new shows, though, we have our answer: streaming services. With new streaming players like Apple TV+, Peacock, Disney+, HBO Max, Quibi and Discovery/BBC, there’s no indications we’ll be reaching the peak of “Peak TV” any time soon. Viewers will have more ad-free choices, and that may be scary for marketers, but just because streaming is ad free doesn’t mean it’s brand free. Read on at Quartz for more of the numbers behind the screen.
TV has more artistic credibility today than ever before. Critics are even evaluating films with a new question in mind: would this movie have been better as a series? One of the most interesting case studies on TV’s new artistic prestige is a recent announcement from director Bong Joon Ho: he will be expanding the story of his award-winning film Parasite into a TV series with HBO, and the team behind Succession. A controversial decision, but one that shows TV has more appeal to top directors than ever before.
If you’re interested in how the TV boom came to be, this article from CBC Radio has some truly fascinating ideas to answer that question, and they start with the old-fashioned serialized novel format. If you think of a season of TV as a story that takes roughly 6-10 hours to get through, you can see the parallel with the length and depth of a typical novel. It’s a chunk of time that gives creators the space they need to develop a whole cast of characters, and build up viewers’ investment over time, telling stories that have the potential to go deeper than many movies.