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The actor Kit Harrington at the Emmy Awards.
Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
HBO has hit a creative wall.

The most critically acclaimed TV shows of 2016 weren’t on HBO

By Dan Kopf

The data confirm reports of HBO’s creative demise.

Prestige television was once the sole domain of HBO, but according to ratings from the website Metacritic, it’s no longer even America’s best channel for scripted drama. Most ways you cut the data, that distinction goes to FX.

The following table shows the top 20 scripted TV shows that aired in 2016, according to their Metacritic rating. Metacritic derives these ratings by assigning scores on a 100-point scale to the reviews of eminent critics, and than averaging those scores. More weight is given to critics of higher stature. More than 150 programs received a rating. A score over 80 signals “universal acclaim.”

Ranking Show Channel Metacritic Rating
1 Rectify SundanceTV 99
2 The Americans FX 95
3 (tie) Atlanta FX 90
3 The People v. O.J. Simpson FX 90
3 The Night Of HBO 90
3 Silicon Valley HBO 90
7 BoJack Horseman Netflix 89
8 (tie) Fleabag Amazon Prime 88
8 Veep HBO 88
8 Casual Hulu 88
11 (tie) Catastrophe Amazon Prime 87
11 Broad City Comedy Central 87
13 Crazy Ex-Girlfriend The CW 86
14 (tie) Outlander Starz 85
14 You’re the Worst FX 85
14 Better Call Saul AMC 85
17 (tie) Mozart in the Jungle Amazon Prime 84
17 Insecure HBO 84
17 Take My Wife Seeso 84
17 The Hollow Crown pbs 84

SundanceTV’s Gothic drama Rectify, one of only two original shows to air on the channel, received the top Metacritic rating of 2016.

After Rectify, three of the next five shows on the list air on FX. With a focus on diversity and originality, FX has quickly converted itself into a TV darling. Like HBO, FX has four of the top 20 shows, but the average rating of those shows is even higher than HBO’s.

Channel Shows in top 20 Average rating
FX 4 90
HBO 4 88
Amazon Prime 3 86
Starz 2 85
SundanceTV 1 99
Netflix 1 89
Hulu 1 88
Comedy Central 1 87
The CW 1 86
AMC 1 85
Seeso 1 84

Every year from 2011 to 2015, HBO had the most shows ranked in the top 20. In 2016, FX reached the top of the prestige TV world. But arguably the biggest winner from the increased competition are TV viewers.