As upfronts wrap today, I wrote this Quartz piece about one big change to this year’s proceedings: the networks are finally serious about programming year-round, and they’re actually putting their money where their mouths are.
But as broadcast ratings continue to erode, those networks can no longer assume that their viewers will stay loyal and return in the fall. So when CBS took a chance on adapting Stephen King’s Under the Dome as a “limited series” last summer, and it became the highest-rated scripted summer series in 21 years, the network kept it in the same spot this year (it returns June 30). With the addition of Extant and other summer shows, CBS will have 90 hours of original programming this summer.
It’s a big change from the broadcasters’ traditional hands-off approach to summer, allowing the cable networks (and more recently, Netflix) to swoop in and take all the audiences for themselves.
TCA winter tour is finally winding down, but I wanted to write one last story about the various developments and announcements that I hadn’t been able to address in standalone stories. So for my final Quartz story from TCA, I noted six ways that TV is changing forever, including my observation that pilot season isn’t dead — yet:
Last week, FOX announced the death of pilot season, with Reilly explaining that “it’s highly inefficient” and “built for a different era” when CBS, ABC and NBC were the only three networks in existence. Instead, Reilly has already picked up several projects “straight to series” for next season, bypassing the usual pilot process so as not to waste resources on projects that will never make it to air.
Yet the other networks were quick to declare that while the business is indeed changing, pilot season is still very useful for them. “It’s frustrating, but also exciting,” said CBS’s Tassler, who noted that pilot season’s “compression of time”—in which pilots are cast, shot and focus-tested in a matter of weeks—gives way to “this creative adrenaline” that has delivered their biggest hits, like The Big Bang Theory. NBC’s Greenblatt noted that his network’s new hit The Blacklist “probably would never have seen the air had we not made a pilot, because it came from a relatively young, inexperienced writer. We weren’t exactly sure immediately from that script that we should order a series.”