2022: The Year in Drama

2022 may have finally been the year that “peak TV” peaked. That was the assessment by the man who coined the phrase, FX Networks’ John Landgraf, in the summer, when he told reporters at TCA: “I’m going to foolishly make another prediction, which is that 2022 will be the high watermark” of scripted TV output. “In other words, that it will mark the peak of the peak TV era.”

Amid inflation, a squeeze on subscription revenues in a crowded SVOD market and bleak ad revenue forecasts for the year ahead, platforms and broadcasters are certainly reassessing their scripted TV investments. Indeed, last year saw an abundance of cancellations as well as truly staggering budgets. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power emerged as the most expensive TV production in history, according to a study by VPN Overview. Each episode of the series was produced with a budget of $60 million; the year’s other big blockbuster TV moment, HBO’sHouse of the Dragon, came in third with a budget of about $20 million an episode.

Both shows, along with many others on that list—including several based on Disney franchises—also illustrated the importance of known IP in making an impact with audiences. That theme was clear from last year’s commissions and development deals, with a slew of books, graphic novels, feature films, games and podcasts landing adaptation agreements, among them God of War and James Patterson’s Alex Cross books for Prime Video; The Wicked Girls by Playground; John le Carré’s A Most Wanted Man from The Ink Factory and Amusement Park; a slate of live-action shows based on the Sony Pictures universe of Marvel characters for MGM+ and Prime Video; Judy Blume’s Forever for Netflix; and The Day of the Jackal for Sky and Peacock.

True stories also proved to be reliable fodder for producers, with Cineflix Productions aligning with Gladys Knight to tell the story of her life; ITV ordering a series about footballers Justin and John Fashanu and one focused on Cary Grant; Applause Entertainment prepping a series about Mahatma Gandhi; and Sky lining up a series about Benito Mussolini’s rise to power, while also teaming with Peacock for a production about the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

And there were plenty of announcements about reboots—including Amazon Freevee aligning with Fremantle to resurrect the long-running Australian drama Neighbours; Viaplay, Eleventh Hour Films and author Ian Rankin prepping a new series around iconic detective John Rebus; and Criminal Minds returning for Paramount+—and prequels, among them one for Outlander. AMC Networks and Boat Rocker Media, meanwhile, unveiled a return to the Orphan Black universe with a new series starring Krysten Ritter.

It was also a year marked by continued consolidation, largely led out of Europe. Fremantle acquired Passenger, took majority stakes in Element Pictures and Lux Vide, upped its interest in Dancing Ledge Productions and invested in Henrik Bastin’s Fabel Entertainment. Banijay, too, widened its global scripted footprint, picking up a majority interest in Israel’s MoviePlus Productions, taking ownership of Mam Tor Productions in the U.K. and adding the Italian scripted producer Grøenlandia Group to Banijay Italy. BBC Studios invested in the British scripted indie production company Turbine Studios, took full ownership of Sid Gentle Films and upped its stake in Firebird Pictures. Other significant M&A deals in 2022 included ITV Studios taking a majority interest in Lingo Pictures in Australia, Newen Studios acquiringScandinavia-based Anagram, Federation taking a majority stake in Vertigo Films, Herbert L. Kloiber’s Night Train Media acquiring Eccho Rights from CJ ENM and Embracer Group taking control of Middle-earth Enterprises, a division of The Saul Zaentz Company that owns, among other IPs, the rights related to The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

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