In Hollywood, pilot season is when major networks decide which of the pilot scripts they're purchased will be cast, shot, and given an order to series. Usually, these networks produce lots of pilots and then pick out the ones they think will do best with audiences. They also will hear a lot of pitches and buy future shows during this time. But the pandemic has turned everything upside down.
It costs so much to make a pilot thanks to COVID protocols that networks are not really taking chances. They're only shooting shows they think have the highest chance to "go." That means less money, fewer jobs, and a relatively huge gamble for networks, who might be unsatisfied with any of the shows they shoot.
“I don’t think any network is going to do more than four pilots on either side of the ball,” one industry insider told Deadline.
Of course, a lot of this has to do with the pandemic adding to an already shifting production scheme. Since streamers are not bound by seasons, greenlighting things becomes much more fluid. They're not producing speculative pilots. They're greenlighting seasons and seeing where it goes. It seems like networks are also trying to pick their winners beforehand, and also doing away with the season behind pilot season, and publishing new shows year-round. We're seeing more "straight to series" orders mostly because it's usually as expensive as producing multiple pilots.
Still, if you're a writer or director, I wouldn't worry too much. While this cuts back on network shows, there has never been a bigger appetite in streaming. People want content, and they want shows that can help draw in new subscribers and audiences.
Also, we used to see streamers go toward more adult fare, but with families watching TV more than ever before, the search to get shows for the whole family (which traditionally skew network) is now wide open.
Still, this seems like a precursor to a much bigger change. Networks are trying to figure out how to save money and keep up with streamers. But their very way of producing ideas is changing. We'll try to keep you updated as these rapid changes and production shifts take place.
Let us know what you think in the comments.