Inside smash scheduling TV spring 2022

It spanned 15 days at the end of April crammed with nearly two dozen original projects including Emmy fave pasts. hostess.
Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images

It’s not your imagination: Spring 2022 has seen a flood of new and returning TV content. In the past 10 weeks or so, streaming platforms and cable networks have rolled out over 50 new and returning series. A crazy 15-day stretch at the end of April crammed with nearly two dozen original projects including new seasons of former Emmy favorites (BarryAnd the russian dollAnd the hostessAnd the Ozark), a galaxy of star-studded newcomers (the first ladyAnd the shining girlsAnd the Gaslit), and some long shots in the hope you’ll be noticed (Billy the boyAnd the outer range). Even in an age of so much TV, it was silly — but amazingly, this audio-visual assault just wasn’t a coincidence in the calendar. In some cases, it was a premeditated act.

Industry insiders tell Vulture that the root cause of the programming backlog is the many Emmy-starved platforms desperately searching for figurines. Instead of just a handful of the big cable powers (HBO, Showtime, FX, AMC) and two streaming devices (Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu) vying for awards, all-new digital players (Apple TV+, Disney+, Peacock, Paramount +) are scrambling to be recognized, as are smaller cables like Starz and Epix. And just as movie studios release cash-friendly titles in the fall to ensure maximum viewing before the Oscars vote, these platforms are convinced that the timing of a spring show is better than the possibility of a summer Emmy rain. Does it matter that last year’s major category winners (Ted LassoAnd the the crownAnd the Queen’s gambit) Was it released last summer or last fall? apparently not. “A lot of titles have taken advantage of in the past years,” says one veteran executive of the spring scheduling strategy. “The parade was fresh in the voters’ minds while the ballots were running.”

In fact, while they may not have won the biggest prizes, hacksAnd the East Town mareAnd the Underground railwayAnd the The Handmaid’s Tale It garnered more than five Emmy nominations each last year after Kneeling in April or May. In the pre-peak television era, series like vice presidentAnd the FargoAnd the Sheet CreekAnd the mad men In theory, it got a boost from spring kickoffs at least once or twice during their respective rounds, bolstering the idea that proximity to the first polling window increases the odds of a big run when the nominations are announced in July.

However, according to sources in TV Land, Emmy’s strategy alone doesn’t explain the madness surrounding this year’s spring premieres. “Part of it is the COVID hangover,” says one prominent programmer, echoing sentiments expressed in interviews with several CEOs. Although the near-total shutdown of film and television production between March and September 2020 was nearly two years in the past, insiders say the disruption it caused still reverberates through the release schedules. More recently, Delta and Omicron waves have caused setbacks on specific projects, resulting in smaller – but still sometimes significant – delays.

Sources say larger budget chains, especially those that require extensive post-production work, have been the most affected. “When you have shows with a lot of special effects and big stars, just getting them live can be a challenge,” says an insider, noting that this was true even before the pandemic. “But now with the COVID spread of everything, many products have been slowed down or discontinued, which has dragged everyone’s productions down and slowed down when shows are ready.” The result: Some Emmy-worthy projects originally targeted for releases in late 2021 or early 2022 ended up not being ready in time, leaving programmers with a difficult choice: squeeze their offerings into an increasingly crowded spring calendar or push them into summer. Or fall – and pray that voters will remember them in the summer of 2023.

While they declined to identify which products have been delayed due to COVID and moved to April or May, insiders from four platforms cited the virus as an important factor in scheduling decisions for many of their latest offerings. However, while they don’t deny that the industry’s collective desire for the Emmys is a real problem, they also insist that the awards don’t quite determine how shows are arranged. “I really try to think of what works best for our calendar,” says one senior programmer, referring to his platform’s need to ensure there isn’t a single month of the year without top-notch content. An insider on a competing platform agrees, noting that the fear of losing existing subscribers has been stymied by a dearth of new content that balances the desire to win prizes. “You can’t have labour,” he says. “We need to program the four seasons so that there is always something ready to premiere.”

Of course, the biggest problem for platforms these days is not finding something new to fill their schedules; It is whether the audience will notice all the new shows. This made spring crushing such a big problem. While award-addicted platforms can target a few thousand members of the Television Academy with events and advertisements, getting general audiences to notice is more difficult if not impossible. That’s an issue outside the awards season window, of course, but the past few months have taken things to a whole new level of irony: Peak TV has basically switched over to Peak TV+. Even worse, it happened at a time when Americans were taking advantage of lower rates of COVID infection after the Omicron wave to travel, socialize, go to movies and concerts as if it were 2019. “This traffic jam was not good for the industry,” acknowledges a senior broadcast programmer. “Everyone does what they think is best for them, but a lot of performances have been damaged.” As one cable marketing executive adds, “It almost hurts consumers at this point. It’s just a lot.”

The good news for people who think there is, in fact, a lot of TV? Some insiders are convinced that the past few months will be remembered as the inflection point for business, the moment when executives realized they couldn’t spend themselves achieving victory in the streaming wars (or the Emmys’ wars). “I’ll leave it to Landgraf to call Peak TV, but this spring seems to have been the best,” an industry veteran hopes, referring to FX president John Landgraf. He believes in “the account we saw with Netflix” – when the file The company’s stock collapsed In the wake of stunted growth – it will reverberate through the business and result in flat or reduced spending on content. “What could happen in the aftermath of this streaming patch is that people reduce their offerings, and that will help ease traffic congestion,” the CEO predicts, making it clear that he thinks that would be a good thing. “We as an industry overdid it.”