Spaceships, Dragons, Reese Witherspoon: Your Guide To The New Television Arms Race


The television arms race has gone nuclear. There’s really not another great way to describe it. We’ve been operating at quote-unquote Peak TV for a few years now, with traditional cable networks and new streaming services pumping money and resources into their content departments at a record pace. The result has been hundreds of new shows and limited series on dozens of channels, many of which you’ve probably forgotten, if you even heard of them at all. (Did you know Hugh Laurie made two seasons of a post-House doctor show on Hulu? I bet you didn’t!) And that was before the real money came in. Which it now has. And things are getting wild.

Netflix and HBO were the big players in this prestige commercial-free universe, but with a big hit from Hulu hauling in awards, two new giant competitors, and Jeff Bezos opening his checkbook in a big way, things have reached a new level. To illustrate, let’s look at a timeline of events from the past six months or so. You’ll be blown away by just how much has happened. Reese Witherspoon is about to be a busy lady, man.

We start with television’s biggest night.

September 6, 2017: The Handmaid’s Tale and Big Little Lies rock the Emmys

Netflix took home a few trophies at the 2017 Emmys (writing on Master of None, Veep, John Lithgow for The Crown, etc.), but the big story of the night was The Handmaid’s Tale and Big Little Lies dominating the drama series and limited series categories. Elisabeth Moss and Ann Dowd won; Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and Alexander Skarsgard won; directors and writers won. Just a huge night for both shows. The biggest winner, though, was probably Hulu, which took a big leap from also-ran to real player thanks in no small part to The Handmaid’s Tale taking home the first Outstanding Drama award for a streaming service.

September 26, 2017: HBO breaks the bank for Game of Thrones

In an article about ballooning budgets for television shows, Variety reveals that the final six episodes of Game of Thrones will come in somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 million each. That is, to be clear, a lot of money. It works out to $90 million for the season. That is also a lot of money. It’s still not the top full-season figure, though, as Netflix reportedly spent $130 million on the first season of The Crown, which seems impossibly high for a show that a) is about well-dressed British people frowning and b) has not featured a single fire-breathing CGI ice dragon. I mean, so far. Fingers crossed for season three.


November 11, 2017: Apple gets into business with Reese Witherspoon

Apple has a streaming service now. Kind of. It will. And once it does, it will feature a show about Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston and morning television. Some details: