It’s like broadcast TV industry’s version of a hangover. It’s already August, the marketplace should be bustling with business but only a few pitches have trickled in so far. “We’re very late this year,” a network topper tells me. Why is that? Some point to the last selling season which was so long and bruising, by the end of it everyone felt exhausted. “We all took a collective break,” one top TV lit agent says. Also, there are a lot of new scripted series — 38 — picked up by the broadcast nets for next season, almost 60% more than the 24 new series ordered last year. That, coupled with the increased volume of original series on cable, made fewer writers available to develop this year. A non-writing producer told me he has never gotten so many “not available” answers from TV lit agents when inquiring about writers.
What’s more, I hear the major studios this year don’t allow writers staffed on first-year shows to develop. The general practice had been for scribes working on new series where they would be paid as much as $40,000-$50,000 an episode to regularly take time off to pitch their own projects or work on drafts of their own pilot scripts. “We don’t want them distracted, we want them focused on those 13 episodes,” a studio head said.
Additionally, there doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency this year, with no any immediate work stoppage on the horizon. Who can forget the frenzy of summer 2007 when the broadcast networks were spending a fortune stockpiling in the face of the looming writers strike? News of deals finally started to crop up over the past couple of days, with Fox handing out a put pilot commitment to Breadwinners, a Diablo Cody comedy about 3 couples with young children. And things are expected to pick up soon. “In the end, it will be the same quality and the same volume, just a little late,” a leading non-writing producer said.