We are seeing an unprecedented amount of greenlit and picked up anthology series across all major networks; almost tripling the number of anthology series from 2017-2018. It seems every network from broadcast to premium cable and streaming platforms are all grabbing up their own potential hits in the category.
Anthologies are nothing new of course, FX’s American Horror Story and Fargo, HBO’s True Detective and Room 104, and Netflix’s Black Mirror have proven the success of this genre, both with viewers and as award nominees and winners. Hulu is doubling down with their upcoming development slate, which includes Into the Dark, Castlerock, and the Mindy Kaling penned Four Weddings and a Funeral remake. So why the sudden rise?
Because TV viewing has changed and binge-watching is at an all-time high, viewers are desiring easily digestible content in snack sized bites, and anthology series are providing just that.
So what makes an anthology series so desirable for a network and why should brands want to get in too?
First and foremost it is about viewership. They are doing very well because audiences can dip in and out at their convenience without having to follow full season storylines and character development. They are accessible and can be binge-watched easily, creating great impression numbers for the networks.
Anthology series are also attracting A-list talent—everyone from actors to producers to directors who traditionally wouldn’t sign on for a long-run TV series. Because production schedules are shorter on anthology series, we are seeing big names attaching themselves to them, like Robert Zemeckis, Drew Barrymore, Steven Spielberg, Adam Horowitz, and Jordan Peele.
Talented writers, directors and producers see the benefit of anthology series because they allow for a more diverse POV in storytelling, giving vast creative freedom for character development and story arcs from episode to episode, or season to season. Creatively, the writers, directors and producers of this type of content can go places with their stories and characters they couldn’t before in a shorter amount of time.
Why is this good for brands?
Anthology series allows brands to be a part of the overarching narrative, potentially creating more opportunities per season. This would also allow for more flexibility for the brand to integrate in the series and be a part of the content in an organic way. Because characters, settings and storylines change more frequently in an anthology series, this provides different opportunities for more brands in a single series.
As I mentioned, there is an influx of A-list talent and this gives a brand access to large names in the industry who may have not been available to them before. This could have been either because they mainly did feature films or they did not want to commit to long production schedules. Brands can now align with the likes of Guillermo del Toro who is launching his own anthology show for Netflix, or award-winning actor Mahershala Ali who stars on the next season of True Detective, for example.
Without multiple episodes to rely on, the content creators also have to establish key info and develop characters very quickly. This gives brands the ability to also evaluate in a single episode if the right character alignment is there for their brand.
Lastly, this type of content is already proven to be popular with viewers and is only going to grow, so brands have the ability to reach larger audiences in a shorter amount of time and be a part of water cooler discussions.
Anthology series are definitely a genre to keep an eye on and consider for future branded integration opportunities. The popularity of this content will only continue to rise as viewers desire content that both peaks their interest and can be easily digested.
Breanna Shepard is a Sr. Manager, Content and Production at Branded Entertainment Network