Could the golden age of television be coming to an end? Not necessarily, although according to entertainment news site Variety
, we are indeed witnessing a shift in the strategy followed by the most important broadcast networks in the US with regards to pilot ordering.
Numbers hint at the 2019-20 pilot season being one of the leanest ever, with a mere 59 pilots ordered among the top five broadcast networks -ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox and NBC-, with none of them planning to order more.
Should this continue, that would put the total number of projects ordered this year below 60, compared with the 76 ordered in 2018. This would represent a drop of 10%-20%, which would mark the fewest number of pilot orders going back at least 7 years.
This is mostly due to the production boom within OTT services. According to Variety, broadcast networks are looking to be more targeted in deploying their resources to be able to compete against streaming platforms.
“We take the responsibility very seriously of how we use our resources, and we don’t make pilots just for the sake of making them,” said Kelly Kahl from CBS to Variety. "We want to guarantee that it’s worth making," she added.
Added to this is the fact that for streamers and cable networks, pilot season goes on all year long, unlike what happens on broadcast TV, which takes its toll on the number of available projects and the likelihood of procuring writing talent.
In this regard, broadcast networks are bound to grow pickier as far as pilots are concerned. Conversely, there should be a push toward focusing on on-air series, which would have a better chance of scoring solid ratings and retaining existing acting and producing talent through renewals.