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How Long Is A TV Season?

As an owner of a home entertainment system, I know the frustration of trying to figure out how long a TV season is. After doing some research and testing, I’m here to share my findings, and provide some insight into how to best manage your TV season expectations.

A TV show season spans anything between 6 and 30 episodes. No set numbers exist for episodes of TV shows, and large deviations are common between different productions and genres. Globally the trend has been a reduction in episode numbers in any single offering but a greater variety of shows.

Traditional TV Season LengthUsually contains 24-26 episodes, spanning from September through May.
Split SeasonsTV and film studios may split seasons to gauge popularity and assess if more episodes should be produced.
Nielsen TV RatingsStudios use Nielsen ratings to measure audience size and characteristics, helping them decide if a show is worth continuing or canceling.
International TV Season LengthsThe number of episodes in TV shows varies globally, with some countries having fewer episodes per season and others having more.
Length Changes Over TimeThe average number of episodes per season has decreased over the years, leading to a greater variety of shows with fewer episodes.
Benefits of Shorter SeasonsShorter seasons can result in higher-quality episodes, more natural story progression, and greater artistic freedom for writers.

What Makes A TV Season?

Characteristically. TV seasons are sequences of television episodes lasting between six and 30 installments within 12 months. While the plots of each episode typically follow chronologically from the previous one, some storylines progress non-sequentially or show no overarching story development.

Traditionally new shows for US broadcast networks started airing in the “fall season” from September to March, and they usually contained 24 to 26 episodes. An entire season runs from September through May for at least 22 episodes. In the summer months, usually shows with lower ratings expectations and reruns are broadcast.

TV and film studios may resort to splitting seasons if they fear they may not be popular, and they wish to gauge how well their show is doing over a set number of episodes before committing to producing more. Occasionally seasons are split into halves by the end of the calendar year, and often studios style the second of a season as “.5”, “part 2”, or “B.”

More recently, shows have been ordered and produced for only half seasons to gauge how popular the show is with audiences. If a series proves popular, the season’s second part is ordered and produced. For series with a proven record of popularity, entire seasons are budgeted and scheduled in advance.

How Do Studios Decide How Many Seasons To Make Of A Show?

Because of the vast competition in the market for audience attention, studios want to ensure that their show will be popular and profitable before they commit to making too many episodes.

Collecting and evaluating viewership statistics is the convention in determining how people respond to their shows, and Nielsen TV ratings often gauge audience statistics.

Nielsen TV ratings are audience measurement ratings that determine audience size and characteristics. The measurement ratings most used relate to rating points and share, or the percentage of tuned-in TV sets for a particular show. The goal is to assess the market share that any broadcast has during the airing timeslot.

After production, television networks receive the shows and distribute them to their affiliate stations to broadcast during the specified broadcasting slot. If the show gets good ratings, it will be kept alive for as long as possible; if not, they will cancel the show.

How Long Are TV Seasons In Other Countries?

There is a difference in the number of episodes in TV shows between the US and some other countries. In the US, the numbers vary widely, with some shows having more than 20 episodes in a season and others having fewer than 9.

The global tendency appears to be creating fewer episodes per season of any individual TV show but creating a wider variety of shows.

Australian TV shows have also shown a decrease in episodes over the years. Australian TV shows have decreased their episode count from around 20 in the early 2000s to an average of just seven a year. There has consequently been a 45% decrease in TV hour numbers, even considering long-running soap operas.

Rather than extending the number of screen minutes, TV shows in the United Kingdom have tended to reduce the number of episodes in a season and total. Most shows have only a handful of episodes in a season, and in some cases, the total number of offerings in the entire series is less than 30.

In India, the opposite appears to be true. TV shows, some of which are soap operas, but most are not, are referred to as serials, and these shows often run over 50 episodes in a season. There are many series with over 10 000 episodes.

How The Length Of TV Seasons Has Changed Over The Years

Compared to the number of episodes created for a TV show season in the past, the episode count of more recent productions is seemingly deliberately reduced. But why has the tendency to generate fewer episodes of a show emerged?

In the relatively limited market of the past, available TV shows used to be broadcast by different networks during the same season. And the likelihood of networks paying for full seasons of any TV show was higher because of the increased competition for broadcasting material. Accordingly, TV show seasons usually run for 22 episodes… give or take a few.

In the 1950s, TV seasons could reach as many episodes as 39. Then from around 1965, the average episode count started declining from 25 to 15 in 1980. From 1980 to 2004, the average number of episodes fell between 15 and 20. Since 1950, the average number of installments per TV season has decreased from 22 episodes to around 13.

How Shorter Seasons Make For Better TV Shows

While TV show season lengths are around half that of what they were before, there are a greater variety of shows from which to pick. The increased number of offerings has brought with it more competition for the attention of audiences and a desperate shortage of time for viewers to watch it all.

One of the benefits of shortened seasons is the reduced pressure to drag out boring plots, which allows writers more artistic freedom to create storylines with more natural progression while increasing the quality of each episode. The quality of the story material dictates the length of the season rather than the other way around.

The cast requirements for shorter seasons are also less demanding, which makes it easier to obtain commitments from sought-after stars. Often the continuity of a show and the development of its story relies on the availability of star actors.


While there is no prescribed number of episodes for any TV show, traditionally between 20 and 30, the current trend has been a near-global reduction in the number of episodes, partly because of the wide variety of shows competing for the attention of audiences.

The positive aspect of fewer episodes in a season is that the few aired episodes are of higher quality and matter to the storyline. Fewer episodes in a TV show also help audiences discover shows they had never seen before and always keep them hungry for more.

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