Once upon a time, summer was the sleepy season for television.
The broadcast networks were largely content to live on the laurels and profits of the September-through-May TV season, airing reruns or replacement shows as household usage levels dropped off from June through August. Then, premium and basic cable networks began to launch their own original series looking to capitalize on broadcast's somnolence.
Marc Berman, TV analyst at programminginsider.com, said summer programming began to change again in 2013, when CBS (US) launched a series adapted from Stephen King's novel "Under the Dome."
"The other broadcast networks have followed suit by launching dramas in the summer, but none worked to the degree of the first season of 'Under The Dome,' which was a big hit, before the show petered out by its third cycle," said Berman.
Now, streaming services are raising the bar even higher, according to TV and media consultant Brad Adgate, who said companies like Netflix Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Hulu LLC are "affecting the changes this summer."
Netflix’s new summer series include "My Only Love Song," "Ozark," "Gypsy" and "Free Rein," and comedies "GLOW" and "Friends from College." New seasons of its hit originals "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black" are also in the summer lineup. For its part, Amazon's Prime Video will premiere animated series "Danger & Eggs"; comedic superhero show "The Tick"; and "The Last Tycoon," an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's final novel. Hulu, meanwhile, will unspool the third season of "Difficult People" on Aug. 8.
As a result, summer 2017 will feature a panoply of programming choices, spanning comedies, dramas, game shows, reality and competition formats across various platforms, all vying for viewer attention between the barbecues, baseball games and vacations.
Unlike last year, programmers will not face the looming specter of the Summer Olympics, which averaged a giant 25.4 million viewers across 17 nights of coverage on NBC. This year, though, the 800-pound gorilla — or perhaps the 80,000-pound dragon — is the penultimate run of "Game of Thrones." HBO / Cinemax (US), starting July 16, will air seven installments of what has become its top series franchise. HBO will also roll out new anthology series Room 104, about characters who pass through a hotel, and fresh seasons of "Insecure" and "Ballers."
As for other premium networks, Starz, which has renewed "American Gods" for a second campaign, has the fourth seasons of "Power" and "Survivor’s Remorse" on tap for June 25 and Aug. 20, respectively. Showtime / TMC / Flix (US), meanwhile, is presenting the reboot of David Lynch's "Twin Peaks," before launching a fifth season of Hollywood fixer drama "Ray Donovan" on Aug. 6.
But the broadcasters are taking dramatic shots of their own, tilting toward the supernatural and thrilling. NBC (US) has "Midnight Texas," featuring vampires, werewolves and witches, adapted from the trilogy by Charlaine Harris, whose other novel series inspired HBO’s "True Blood." ABC (US), which has already bowed "Still Star-Crossed," will debut thriller "Somewhere Between." For its part, CBS will serve up "Salvation," where Earth faces doom from a plummeting asteroid.
FOX (US), which aired "Wayward Pines" in 2015 and 2016, is on the sci-fi series sidelines this summer.
Basic cable also has plenty in store for viewers. Both Berman and Adgate are high on "Snowfall," the FX Network (US) drama centered on the early days of the crack cocaine epidemic that bows July 5. FX will also unleash the fourth and final season of "The Strain" on July 16.
TNT (US) has lined up "Claws," a comedy-drama about women working at a nail salon in Central Florida, and "Will," which tracks the life of a young Shakespeare.
Other cable networks are focusing on fins, with the 30th anniversary of Discovery Channel (US)'s "Shark Week" hitting the water July 23, while Syfy (US)'s telefilm franchise casts its net with "Sharknado 5: Global Swarming" on Aug. 5. August will also see the arrival of USA (US) limited series, "The Sinner," starring Jessica Biel, who turns out to be not such a happy wife and mother.
Adgate also is expecting big audiences from the ABC miniseries "The Story of Diana," timed to the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death in August, while Berman noted that ABC is going back to the well, reviving "Battle of the Network Stars," which he believes will feature a flood of reality show personalities.
"Some people consider them to be stars now," he said, adding that an updated version of the "The Gong Show" also may connect to some extent. "Why not? It could be mindless, summer fun."
While viewers have more shows than ever to choose from, the variety may work against all of them.
"The good news is there are a lot of options. The bad news is there a lot of options," said Adgate. "How do the networks promote their shows well enough to gain attention? How do viewers keep track of it all?"
One thing Berman is certain about this summer: Nothing is to going to top the 12th cycle of NBC's "America’s Got Talent." "It had more than 12 million viewers for its first episode [on May 30]. It's a bona fide hit."