American TV outlets want original, as costs skyrocket

American TV outlets want original, as costs skyrocket

NEW YORK - In the new age of American television, it pays to be original. But it also costs a bundle.

From Time Warner and its HBO unit to streaming video group Netflix and online giant Amazon, money is pouring in to produce new shows like "Game of Thrones," "Transparent" and "Marco Polo."

With TV viewing habits becoming fragmented as more people go online for new outlets, the pressure is on to attract audiences with fresh, original programs.

Netflix is planning to spend $3 billion on content this year as it pushes to grow globally, expanding its offerings after successes with the political drama "House of Cards" and comedy-drama "Orange is The New Black."

Not to be outdone, Amazon has stepped up its original production efforts with the transgender series "Transparent," winner of a Golden Globe, and others, with famed director Woody Allen hired by the online giant.

Amazon invested some $1.3 billion in television programming last year, according to founder Jeff Bezos.

"Working with Woody Allen is not cheap," said James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research who follows disruptive technologies.

McQuivey said more studios and outlets are bidding for these programs, pushing up costs.

"Suddenly, instead of only having four or five studios to sell your TV shows to, you now have 12 or 16, and some of them are very motivated because they're looking for the next big hit," he said.

According to Nielsen data compiled by the FX cable channel, there are 352 original scripted dramas and comedies produced for US cable, broadcast and online television this year.

The number of original cable programs has doubled in the past five years. For online, the sector has grown from non-existent to 24 original programs, the research showed. That includes new efforts from Internet players such as Yahoo, AOL and Hulu.

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