Series and films experienced an unexpected boost in creativity thanks to streaming services. But now Hollywood’s boredom is threatening to move in on streaming as well.

It was an unexpected breath of fresh air that blew through the television landscape in recent years. With the advent of TV streaming, the series format experienced a second spring, bringing viewers tons of new perspectives, narrative forms and niche experiments. But this phase seems to be over in the context of increasing competition. “The bubble has burst,” serial inventor Adi Hasak summarized the situation.

In a panel at the Berlinale, the screenwriter from the Netherlands discussed the situation of series production in the USA. And drew a grim balance sheet. “America is in a creative disaster zone right now,” he diagnosed. “Nothing they try works.”

New focus

It has been evident for a while that something has changed in the market. While the streaming providers and later the classic TV stations outdid each other for a while with ever more creative and daring series ideas, this development has long since slowed down. And the creative frenzy is now followed by the hangover.

There is one reason above all: the industry is under pressure. In the boom years, the competition among a few competitors ensured that they tried to differentiate themselves from each other with ever new prestige projects in order to retain customers. For a while there was even a real shortage of series developers. With the increasing saturation of the market and the ever increasing number of new streaming offers, the focus is increasingly shifting. In order to win new customers, providers don’t need niche programs, but blockbusters. And that has consequences for the program.

Less room for experiments

“They do the same sh *** series – again and again,” Hasak complains about Disney. Since the Hollywood giant has also been involved in streaming, it has developed into one of the largest providers at record speed. To do this, however, he does not rely on niches, but above all on the hit machines in-house – such as content from the Marvel or Star Wars universe. Hasak doesn’t see much prospect of success. “They released three different Star Wars series in one month. It doesn’t make any sense.”

The willingness to experiment is also decreasing with the other streaming providers. While Netflix used to only discontinue a series before the third season in exceptional cases, this is now increasingly the case. Even hyped series are no longer safe from fate. Although “1899” got a lot of attention at launch, the mystery series was scrapped after just one season. Apparently, the proportion of viewers who had watched the series to the end was too low. With HBO’s prestige series “Westworld” it’s the other way around: the last season was canceled without further ado. The series now ends on a cliffhanger.

Is it still worth starting?

The disappointment about the cancellations is now also having an effect on the viewers. In social media, there is an increasing number of views that series are only started when they are sure to end. “I’ve been disappointed too often,” summarizes a Reddit user about his feelings. This is bad news for streaming providers. A gigantic hit like “Squid Game” can certainly attract attention. However, if fewer and fewer viewers give new content a chance, the probability of such hits also decreases.

Hasak fears that the streaming providers could soon be in a similar position to the one we already know from the cinema. As an example, he cites the attempt by the Disney subsidiary Fox to relaunch the 70s hit series “Starsky and Hutch”. “Studios want to feel like there’s a chance of success,” he explains. “The problem is: Most of the content is not a bestseller.”

Sources: Deadline, Vice, Digiday, Techcrunch, Variety